Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, its characters, its storyline, or any related trademark.
Warnings: Possible spoilers throughout, also language (I forget sometimes that my version of Team 7 has quite the potty mouth)
Author's Note: This is going to be a ten part story, for those who are wondering.
Sakura had been distant since their mission to Ame, and Sasuke knew that it was his fault.
He should never have kissed her.
If he hadn't kissed her, then he wouldn't have to live with the realization that she wasn't in love him anymore, she wouldn't have to spend her days avoiding him, and Naruto wouldn't be suspicious about their teammate's absence from their team lunches at Ichiraku because she wouldn't be absent in the first place.
Sasuke let out a frustrated sigh and poked at his ramen with his chopsticks.
Naruto glared at him. "What's up with you?" he said. "You and Sakura. What happened in Ame?"
Sometimes, Sasuke really hated the fact that Naruto was such a good friend. "Nothing happened. I don't know what you're talking about."
Naruto frowned and slurped the last of the noodles from his bowl. Even the tension couldn't kill his appetite. He swallowed and laid his chopsticks down, his face contemplative. Softly, he said, "I'm not stupid, you know? I can tell when my best friends are having problems."
Sasuke swallowed thickly and felt his stomach flip-flop. He didn't like how easily Sakura and Naruto were able to affect him these days. He was already having enough trouble with Sakura as it was. He decided to ignore Naruto's words in favour of picking at his ramen some more.
Naruto's face fell. "Look, I know we don't always get along, but I am your friend for a reason. I do want to help you."
Sasuke snorted. Naruto was not being helpful right now. "Why don't you go bug Sakura instead of me?"
Naruto's eyes lit up and Sasuke knew he had spoken the wrong words. "So this does have something to do with Sakura."
Sasuke scowled and stared at his meal, instead of meeting Naruto's inquisitive gaze. It was childish, but Naruto was being a prick and Sasuke really couldn't handle this strange mixture of guilt and vulnerability on his own. Usually, he'd turn to Sakura for advice on these matters, but that wasn't possible this time around.
He couldn't stand the thought of being vulnerable around Naruto.
Even worse, though, he couldn't stand the thought of never being around Sakura ever again.
"I won't ask Sakura because she's just as stubborn as you," Naruto said. "And, unlike you, I'm actually afraid of her."
Sasuke didn't react to the jibe, instead he let his shoulders drop and bowed his head. Even after all this time, it was hard to admit weakness in front of his rival-turned-friend.
"…It was an accident," Sasuke said.
Naruto watched him with careful eyes. His voice was calm and gentle. "What was?"
"I… I kissed her, okay?" Sasuke's face flushed with shame.
Confusion overtook Naruto's expression. "How is that a bad thing?"
Sasuke pressed his hands to his face and thought about screaming. "How? Well, how about the fact that it ended with her head-butting me to get out of it."
"She what? Why?"
Sasuke wanted to strangle himself. Why was Naruto such a moron, sometimes? What about this whole situation was the blond not understanding? "Because she didn't want to kiss me!"
"So… you're telling me… you kissed her, and she immediately slammed her forehead into yours to get out of it? I doubt that."
Sasuke slumped over onto the counter and cradled his head in his arms. Naruto just didn't seem to understand the awful mess Sasuke had made. "You weren't there."
Naruto laid a hand on Sasuke's shoulder. "Technically I was," he said. "But tell me what happened."
Sasuke sighed. He raised his head from his arms, despite the fact that he could still feel the flush on his cheeks. His bowl of ramen was no longer appetizing, but it was far easier to look at than Naruto's heavy gaze.
"I just… I just kissed her. Then she made this noise, so I pulled away. Then she slammed her skull into my nose."
Sasuke could still vividly recall that moment. It haunted his sleep and made his chest ache. Why did he have to fuck everything up?
Naruto had not said anything yet, and Sasuke wondered if he had finally shut his friend up. He looked at the blond, who was frozen in place, eyebrows raised and mouth slightly ajar. Naruto spoke when he noticed Sasuke's gaze.
"And people think I'm stupid," he said.
Sasuke's face flushed bright red. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Naruto stared him down. "It means that you're a moron. Think about it – if Sakura really didn't want to kiss you, don't you think she would've just pulled away? She has more than enough strength to push you off her, you know? And she knows it, too."
Naruto's words made sense, but Sasuke had spent so much time hating himself that he couldn't see the big picture Naruto was painting for him. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that when you don't want someone kissing you, you don't follow their face with yours!"
Sasuke scowled and Naruto could see that the last Uchiha still did not get the message.
Naruto was very tempted to tear his hair out at this point, but he didn't. Instead, he glared at Sasuke and yanked on his friend's collar, so they were eye to eye. Naruto wanted to make sure that Sasuke got this message loud and clear. "She's not mad at you because you kissed her! She's mad at you because you didn't kiss her again!"
There was a moment then that Naruto would never forget. Like a sunrise, clarity dawned on Sasuke. His jaw slackened and his eyebrows rose – the light of knowledge illuminated his dark eyes.
"I… have to go," he said.
He tossed a wad of cash on the counter and disappeared.
Sakura was unprepared when someone kicked in the door to her office - she wasn't expecting Naruto until Tuesday. She was much less prepared for the person who actually was behind the door.
Sasuke stared at her awkwardly, as if unsure how to follow up his rather unprecedented entrance. He closed the door behind him and turned to face her. He pinned her down with his desperate stare and she began to feel every emotion she had tried to push back since the mission to Ame. She was scared, angry, and, most of all, hurt.
Sakura had never hidden her feelings for him, but she had respected his need for distance and had decided to not pursue him until he was a little less confused about himself. She wished he had the same self-restraint.
She managed to find her voice when she realized that he had frozen in place, too. He was just standing there and staring. Despite the scowl on his face, she could see the regret in his eyes. Her hands tightened into white-knuckled fists.
After everything, now was when he had the gall to look remorseful?
"What do you want?" she said.
Her voice snapped him from his reverie. He strode towards her. "You," he said.
His hands cupped the back of her neck and pulled her into a kiss. Sakura's hands latched themselves firmly on the front of his shirt while her brain tried to figure out what was going on.
He was a really clumsy kisser. His nose bumped hers and their teeth clacked against each other, but it was Sasuke and, really, that was what mattered to Sakura.
He pulled back and looked at her – really looked at her – and she suddenly felt shy under his gaze.
"Why?" she said. "Why do you want me?"
Sasuke huffed. "I don't know – I just do."
Sakura chewed her bottom lip and let go of his shirt so her hands could fall back down to her sides.
"Does it really matter?" he said.
"Yes, it does."
He scowled, and crossed his arms over his chest. He looked like an annoyed cat, but she could tell he was nervous and frustrated. Despite his scowl, there was a red tint to his ears. His gaze was off to his right, staring intently at the wall. He sighed. "What do you want me to say? That I love you? Because I do. I love you because you're one of my precious people... and I don't know if there's more to it than that."
Sakura swallowed thickly and had to blink back tears. Of course he loves you, she thought, just like he loves Naruto and Kakashi.
"…But if there is more than that, then I want to find out," he said. His fingers grazed the bottom of her chin and tilted her head up to face his. The sincere intent in his eyes made Sakura shake. What if he found out that there was nothing else to his feelings?
And yet he's kissed you on more than one occasion, she thought to herself. What if there really is more to his feelings? You've wanted him for years, Sakura, aren't you at least willing to try?
Sakura exhaled and brought her hands up to rest on his arms. "Okay," she said. "We'll find out… together."
Sasuke's lips quirked up into a gentle smile and Sakura could do nothing but stare, a soft blush painting her cheeks. He pressed his forehead against hers. "…Thank you."
TO BE CONTINUED