Written for the first ever SasuSaku_Month.
When the aftermath of everything came, it had been raining.
Blood and water and bodies soiled the ground and those that survived stood proud and erect with shoulders squared, heads tilted back and faces staring at the dark sky. Those lost were remembered with every shard of hope and future that began to build itself up in and around the shinobi world. And relief.
Sakura had been on her knees, dirt and muck and blood splattered around her body and clothing and twigs and leaves entwined in her hair. Tears mingled with the raindrops as they both slid down her muddy cheeks; she had been hunched down, knees pressed together as they pillowed Naruto's head.
He'd been unconscious and Sakura had been crying and doing her best to heal him.
It was raining, and everything was over.
"Thank you," she had sobbed.
Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years.
Konoha was rebuilt; the Elders had been convicted for their crimes - everything was new. Everything was new.
The war had left scars; wars always leave scars. Deep, penetrating scars that, no matter how much you tried, would never ever heal. They'd seal, but they'd still be there – jagged and overwhelming, holding everything in and still. But – the war had left scars and everyone had them. And they grinned, hallow pointed and razorblade-sharp, in the shadows of the new buildings and new life.
Sakura walked down the streets of Konoha, a stack of documents and scrolls in her arms, and headed towards the Hokage Tower.
She smiled, lightly, at those that waved and shouted a greeting and even stopped to talk to a few villagers once or twice.
With scars, came growth and Sakura had grown so much, with everything she'd seen.
Feeling like she'd lost everything and everyone more than once in the sea of blood and adrenaline had left her close to empty; holding Naruto's unconscious body and feeling his heart beat ever so slowly had chewed at her nerves. Seeing Sasuke, broken and bleeding little ways, caused her heart to crack.
But, through that, Sakura had grown and she had learned to accept that… One day, no one was going to come back. So she smiled and lived while she could.
She entered the Hokage Tower and headed straight to the Hokage's office. She raised an eyebrow at the sight.
Oh, this was the best part of everything she was now working for. Stalking over to the desk, she dropped everything in her hands on the surface with a loud slap that jolted the lazy fool up and off his seat.
"Kakashi-sensei," Sakura almost shrieked, "You were supposed to finish that stack while I read through these!"
"Yes, well," Kakashi, laughed, sheepishly, sole eye crinkling, "I—"
"Don't even start. You suck."
Sakura patted the top of the documents and scrolls she'd just brought in and smirked, green eyes glinting behind her pink bangs. "You better be done with these by tomorrow, or I'm calling Shizune on you."
She left the office before Kakashi could choke on air.
"Sakura-chan," Naruto said, just as soon as she slid onto the stool at Ichiraku's, "Do you think… I mean… Did you actually think this would have been what was waiting for us? Like, after the war?"
Sakura stared at him, breaking her chopsticks and twirling them around her nimble fingers. "What? This… life?"
"I mean," Naruto shrugged, looking down at his ramen, "everything's normal now."
"…Sasuke's back," he said, "we're here. And we're alive. It just… seems surreal."
Sakura turned away and smiled at Ayame as she plopped a bowl of ramen in front of her. Casualties would be casualties but everything was intact when it came to Naruto's small world; Jiraiya was gone, but Naruto'd accepted that long ago. Everything else was still there and for a guy so used to losing everything, Naruto was having a difficult time accepting it, even now.
"Don't be silly," she said, grinning and slipping ramen into her mouth. "This is just how it used to be."
As she said that, Sasuke slipped onto his stool, on the other side of Naruto, and said nothing. This was how it was, now.
Naruto'd sit at Ichiraku's, Sakura'd appear to his left and Sasuke, minutes later, to his right.
It was as it should be, a faint voice said in Sakura's head.
"Y'think so?" Naruto turned to Sasuke, "What do you think?"
"About," Sasuke drawled, a moment later.
Sakura hid her smile; it was as if there had never been tension between the three, just out of the aftermath.
"Everything being like it used to be," Naruto jabbed a thumb towards Sakura, "Sakura-chan says it is."
Sasuke spared her a glance, for a second, before turning to Naruto, and then to his ramen. "Hn."
Naruto sighed, loudly, and rolled his eyes.
He was sitting at her office, in the hospital, when she arrived, later that day.
His feet were propped on her desk and he was slouched on her chair, his eyes trained on a scroll.
Though still a bit tense between them, Sakura'd always come to her office to see this. They never spoke; he'd just move to her windowsill and she'd sit where he had once sat and resume her work from the day before. That's just the way it was, between them. He was Sasuke and she was Sakura and being friends had never been that easy.
But, she decided, she craved for his company and Sasuke was just Sasuke and this… This was as best as they could get, for now.
So she took it.
She accepted it and held it close because he was still Sasuke through everything; through the anger and the poison and the death attempts they'd thrown at each other.
So, Sakura watched him move, quickly, and just as quickly took her seat.
It was quiet.
When she finally cracked, it'd been raining.
Sakura found herself alone and the hollow feeling had swallowed her whole and she was in tears without knowing why. She was sobbing, small frame wracking and she didn't know why.
She was cold.
So, so, so cold.
Sakura'd escaped her apartment through the window and, holding herself, she'd walked down the empty streets, under the rain; sobs swallowed by thunder and tears disguised by rain.
She found herself in front a familiar apartment; familiar in sight, because she'd never gone in there. But she climbed up the fire escape, inexplicable tears still spilling and, god, something was wrong. Something was wrong with her and she just continued to climb, sliding the window open and slipping inside. She was dripping water on the floorboards and she was shaking with cold and desperation when he saw her.
Sakura sobbed and hugged herself. "I don't… I don't know… I just…"
"Are… You're crying…" Sasuke looked absolutely mortified for a second before he went back to his blank face and stared.
She shook her head and curled into herself. "It was only a matter of… of time… before I… I cracked…"
Sasuke walked away.
Sakura continued to silently cry and shake and drip water. He came back with a blanket and draped it around her.
"You're annoying," he said, and sat her down on the couch.