Date: September 22, 2012
Word Count: 6,665
Summary: The differences between the alternate and the original only made Haruno Sakura appreciate Uchiha Sasuke more, because no one could substitute him in her life, not even himself…
Pairing: Sasuke and Sakura; Naruto and Hinata
SPOILERS: References to the Naruto Movie: Road to Ninja
"I have always noticed you…And I will always be on your side."
Haruno Sakura blinked as the words of a far-off memory flitted away from her mind. Tilting her head back, she allowed her eyes to slide shut as she basked beneath the warmth of late afternoon sunlight. Sweat clung uncomfortably to her skin and her body ached from hours of rigorous training, but a smile lifted her lips as a soft shift of wind brushed against her form and swept pleasantly through her pink hair.
A tired groan sounded which was immediately followed by a heavy weight that toppled beside her, leaning against her right shoulder and transferring fatigued breaths against her collarbone. She cracked a single eye open and gazed down at a familiar head of spiky blonde. A slow grin was already spreading across his tanned face and a pair of bright, royal blue irises raised up to connect with her single emerald, shining with triumph.
"I won!" A hearty laugh broke free from his wide beam and he twisted his head and pointed a finger in a direction straight across from where they were sitting, "Take that, bastard!"
Sakura opened her other eye to view the training grounds more clearly. Sai was sitting a few meters ahead of her, painting languidly in his notebook, still sweat-drenched from his spar with the kunoichi just a few minutes prior. Beside him, Uchiha Sasuke was running a towel against his forehead, a scowl crossing his lips as Naruto's victorious laughter continued to grow louder.
Sakura smirked as she slanted her head so it could rest against Naruto's; his laughter had died down to short chuckles but the movements caused his soft hair to tickle her cheek. She continued to watch Sasuke, silent in his typically brooding manner, taking a swig of water before glaring down at the chakra seals decorating his wrists.
The Fourth Ninja World War had ended a little over a year ago. And it had been several months since Sasuke had returned home to the Hidden Leaf Village. After the war's end – at his and Naruto's joint effort in defeating Uchiha Obito – the final Uchiha had appealed to the Joint Army for clemency. Because of his integral role in Obito's defeat the Kages sent Sasuke to the frontlines instead of imprisonment. They commanded that he lead the destruction of the remaining followers and reanimated corpses of Obito's and Kabuto's army. Once that was done, he was sent into interrogation for information before serving a trial and short incarceration in Lightning Country for his attack on the Jinchuuriki, Killer Bee.
Months later, he walked through the gates of Konohagakure no Sato.
Team Kakashi was still strained with tension. Years of separation and antagonism could not erase in mere months. They found relief in habit and routine, taking the time to train together, eat together – spend time together to find their dynamic once again. Slowly but steadily Naruto and Sasuke were regaining their brotherhood; Sai was beginning to understand that he wasn't, and would never be, a replacement; and Sakura was starting to believe that perhaps things could go back to how it was before.
A particularly loud snort from Naruto – who was still trying to control his laughter – caused Sasuke's head to snap towards them, dark eyes glaring with irritation at the much-amused blonde.
Sakura sighed as she nudged her shoulder against Naruto, "If I recall correctly, you lost the last time you two sparred; which makes your spar-count even once again. Don't start gloating yet."
Naruto immediately pouted and shifted away from her body so she could witness the full-effect of his expression, "Sakura-chan!"
A smirk crossed her lips as she shrugged her shoulders, "Just calling it as it is."
As Naruto began to mutter about strategies for his and Sasuke's next inevitable match Sakura pulled her legs towards her – right elbow propped against her knee and chin resting against her upturned palm – and shifted her gaze to find Sasuke staring at both her and Naruto, features smoothed of emotions. The kunoichi offered him a small smile and the Uchiha blinked once before grunting and turning away.
'So typical…' She thought fondly.
Sakura lazily ran her finger along the lip of her glass cup, picking up perspiration before grasping the beverage and bringing the bright yellow straw to her lips. A delighted moan sounded as ice-cold raspberry tea slithered down her throat and settled pleasantly in her belly.
"So, how have you been, Forehead girl?"
The young woman opened her eyes and blinked across the table towards Yamanaka Ino. The two were dressed in casual civilian clothing – sun dresses – in celebration of the sunny, summer day and the rare respite from missions, hospital duty, and flower shop responsibilities. The platinum-blonde was sipping on a fruit smoothie, a half-eaten fruit tart sitting on a plate in front of her.
"Busy," Sakura answered as she placed her drink back on the table; she fixed the floppy hat that shielded her from the sun – they were sitting outdoors of their favorite café – and smiled, "I went on a mission to Suna recently. And Kaa-san and Otou-san have been bugging me about having dinner with them; so I went last night."
Ino nodded, "How are your parents doing? The last time I saw them…" She trailed off, eyed Sakura reflectively of an adventure her friend and Naruto had endured in an alternate universe under a powerful form of Genjutsu, "…well, you weren't exactly yourself."
Green eyes glazed over with thought and she distractedly began to play with her glass cup again, "They're doing well. None the wiser about what happened, but that's all in the past," She focused her attention back to Ino and threw her an assuring smile.
Still uncertain, the Yamanaka hesitantly acquiesced to the response, "Alright then."
"And what about you, Pig?" Sakura inquired as she picked a strawberry slice from Ino's tart with a grin.
The Mind-User rolled her eyes then shrugged, "Same. I actually went on a mission with Sasuke-kun and Hinata-chan a few days ago: Intelligence gathering."
The pink-haired medic nodded her head as she sat back in her chair, "I heard. How'd it go?"
Ino smirked, grey-blue eyes shining, "Success – as expected. We didn't get out of it unscathed, but nothing life-threatening either. Sasuke-kun did a good job – his teamwork is improving, you know, considering…"
Sakura smiled as Ino trailed off, "That's good to hear. I'm glad he's progressing with that."
Silence settled between the two kunoichi and Sakura relished the moment of relaxation. She gazed out at the street where the café rested and observed shinobi and civilians go about their daily lives – unhampered by the threat of war; enjoying life in peace.
"He's quiet though," Ino added thoughtfully, and Sakura twisted her head to gaze at her friend with silent questioning; Ino shrugged again, "Not that it's unusual. But the times when it was just the three of us – eating dinner around the campfire, traveling, even going over our strategy, Sasuke-kun was just…quiet. Stiff," She snorted, "I'll even say uncomfortable."
Sakura quirked a brow, curious, "Uncomfortable?"
"Yeah," Ino suddenly giggled wickedly behind her hand, "He was tense. So I decided to tease him a bit to get him to loosen up – went back to my fan girl days and began to flirt with him a bit, and hug him and stuff–"
"And stuff?" Sakura questioned, both eyebrows now raised, tone filled with disbelief – and no, she was not jealous.
"–but he only got more quiet and secluded," Ino continued with a wave of her hand – brushing off Sakura's comment, "He was getting annoyed but he was getting uncomfortable too," She shrugged, "Maybe it's because he was teamed with two attractive women – maybe he's shy!" Her grin turned cheeky, "On previous missions he certainly wasn't this uptight if Naruto, or even Shikamaru, were around."
"He isn't like that with me…" Sakura muttered, a little affronted.
"You're an exception, Forehead," Ino rectified, "You're teammates–friends. Of course he's comfortable with you."
"I suppose…" She responded, mollified.
A sudden babble of conversation was slowly approaching their vicinity and was steadily getting louder. Sakura returned her gaze to the currently unpopulated street and instantly found her gaze drawn to one Uchiha Sasuke as he briskly walked by, clearly headed in the direction of the Uchiha Compound.
"Well, speaking of…" Ino noticed as well, amused.
Sakura silently observed her reticent teammate as he walked hastily down the road, hands shoved in his pant pockets and lips forming a deep scowl. Further down the street – where Sasuke had emerged from – a group of young women were trailing behind at a distance, blushing, giggling, gossiping, and pointing ahead, clearly enamored by the last Uchiha.
Ino laughed, "Just like the good 'ole days."
Sakura couldn't help the reminiscent smile that curled her lips.
As if sensing her stare, Sasuke turned his head and his dark, obsidian irises connected with her bright emerald. What was only seconds of a brief stare felt like minutes as he regarded her with recognition – there was no nod of his head, no wave of his hand, and no smile on his lips; his eyes only filled with silent acknowledgement before a particularly loud squeal behind him caused his scowl to return full-force and for his pace to quicken just a fraction more.
She watched him go, small smile still in place, tracing the rigid lines of his shoulders and the tension of his muscles before he disappeared around the corner and out of her sight. His mob of fan girls followed without hesitation but the kunoichi knew that once he had turned the corner there was no chance his admirers would find him again.
The subsequent wails of outrage and groans of despair proved Sakura's assumptions correct and she chuckled softly to herself.
"There's no denying though," Ino grinned as she took another sip of her smoothie, "Sasuke-kun's still one handsome piece of ass."
Sakura rolled her eyes but didn't disagree. He was very handsome, with features that would no doubt allow him to attract any woman he wanted.
Her soft smile lifted a fraction more.
Sakura giggled as she pressed her back against a red-brick wall at the entryway of an obscure alleyway. The shadows were hiding her from the main street and the dark clothing she chose to wear for the night was an added bonus. A grunt caused her eyes to snap towards the entrance where Uchiha Sasuke stood, arms crossed over his chest as he stared at her apathetically.
The kunoichi rolled her eyes, grabbed his left arm sleeve, and pulled him into the darkness of the backstreet, maneuvering him so that he too was pressed against the wall beside her, "For a ninja, you're not very discreet, Sasuke-kun."
Sasuke scowled, "We're following the dobe. An activity I still find irrelevant to my time and–"
"Oh geez, Sasuke-kun," Sakura half-sighed, half-laughed, "Have a little fun, will you?" She turned away from the Uchiha to peer around the corner, emerald eyes tracking something he had no doubt was Uzumaki Naruto, "We're here for silent moral support! I mean," She turned to stare at him, green eyes shining in the semi-darkness of the street's lanterns, "Naruto's on a date! With Hinata-chan! We have to make sure nothing goes wrong," She shrugged and turned back to observing their intended targets, "Because, let's face it, this is Naruto we're talking about. We're here to make sure things go as smoothly as possible."
"You could have recruited Sai," Sasuke muttered as he pinched the bridge of his nose.
"I did; he couldn't make it – he's on a mission," The kunoichi answered distractedly, emerald eyes still watching something he couldn't see, "Whether he couldn't make it or not, I was still going to force you to come with, Sasuke-kun," She side-smirked at him, "You're Team Kakashi too after all," She suddenly pouted, "Unless you simply don't want to be around me?"
Sasuke didn't deign her with an answer. Instead, he grunted and looked away. Sakura smiled as she returned to spying on Naruto and Hinata, who had just entered a restaurant, inwardly pleased that although Sasuke hadn't said anything he also didn't make any movement to leave.
"Come on," Sakura urged as she grabbed one of his crossed arms and led him speedily through the slightly populated roads, taking refuge in a spot just outside of the restaurant behind a low wall and some trees. Fortunately, Naruto and Hinata had been seated near one of the large windows that viewed the park so the kunoichi was glad she and Sasuke wouldn't have to resort to a disguising henge and spend money on an unnecessary meal.
"This is stupid," Sasuke muttered, but he crouched beside her, peeking over the low wall to observe just as clearly as she was.
"You can leave," Sakura pointed out lightly, grinning as she watched Naruto animatedly talk with the Hyuuga Heiress.
"Hn," Sasuke grunted, but once again, stayed rooted at his spot.
The seconds ticked by as the two ninja crouched in silence, emerald and obsidian irises observing the contented interaction between their Squad Seven teammate and the Hyuuga Heiress. The night was serene, dark skies clear, and full moon bright. The crickets of the nearby park were creating a soothing song that caused Sakura to rest her arms on the top of the wall and lean her chin atop her clasped hands, smiling softly as Naruto and Hinata began to laugh about a story that was lost on her. But she could feel the ambiance in their movements, she could see the joy shining in their eyes, and a soft, longing sigh escaped past her lips.
Hidden beneath the shadows of the overhanging tree canopies, Sakura openly witnessed the genuine affection that Uzumaki Naruto was capable of – and deserved just as equally. Hinata, so typically quiet and shy, was openly grinning, blushing as she listened raptly to the blonde's exuberant tales.
"…Maybe he doesn't need our help after all," Sakura whispered proudly, watching as Hinata laid her hand on the table, only for Naruto to take it, looking into pale lavender eyes so intensely that Sakura had to look away to allow them privacy, "Smooth move, Naruto."
In the process of twisting her head Sakura's gaze connected with Sasuke's. He stared at her silently, his emotions eclipsed by years of practiced control over his expressions and obscured by the surrounding darkness. Sakura tilted her head; staring back unflinchingly – thoughtfully – before a small, almost secretive smile, crossed her lips. Sasuke blinked and Sakura turned away, resting her back against the wall as she sat in a more comfortable position, scooting her right arm away from a large bush opposite of where Sasuke sat, and gazed up at the stars through the leafy branches above.
"Has there been anything new with you, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura asked quietly; she turned to glance at him and he sat in a position similar to her own, relaxed, left leg bent and left arm resting atop his raised knee, "We haven't had a chance to hang out for a couple of weeks now; busy with missions?"
Sasuke's head shortly dipped forward in a slow nod, "Hn."
The kunoichi giggled, prompting his eyes to slide towards her in slight annoyance, "Always so quiet, Sasuke-kun," She absently brushed a bush branch away from her right arm, "It's nice though – sitting like this. Tranquil," Sakura grinned, "I can't do that with very many people. Ino and Naruto are such chatterboxes. And I can never be silent like this when I'm with the girls. Though, Shikamaru is good company, but he usually falls asleep on me," She laughed again, "This is nice, Sasuke-kun. Hanging out," A smirk lifted her lips, "Even if it was to spy on Naruto."
Silence prevailed once again. She closed her eyes and listened to the sounds of the night and the distinct noises of the street behind them, muffled by the wall they leaned against. Once again, the medic swiped against her arm, tickled by the breezing leaves of the bush beside her, only to wince as a quick, sharp pain shot up the top of her hand. Curious, Sakura looked down and eyed the thin cuts that decorated the tops of her fingers, near the knuckles, the red welts slowly rising up with blood.
She turned her head to eye the bush and narrowed her eyes to see beyond the darkness, blinking when she began to discern the color red, hidden behind the leafy green. Carefully, Sakura pulled apart the thin limbs of shrubbery and stared at a beautiful red, rose peeking out at her. Her eyes darted to her injured hand before she encase it with healing chakra, mending the cuts whilst simultaneously reached into the bush to pluck the beautiful flora.
"…Do you spend time with Nara often?"
"Sometimes," Sakura answered distractedly, eyes thoughtfully examining the rose, mindful of the thorns along the stem, "…We'll play shogi if we have time; a couple of spars or missions here and there; some meetings for strategy; though I'll usually see him at the Hospital or Flower Shop before Ino gets off work."
Sakura closed her eyes and brought the rose to her nose, blissfully taking in the sweet, fresh scent and feeling the soft petals brush across her lips. Smiling, she opened her eyes and stared at the flower held delicately in her hands, brushing her fingers lightly against the petals, careful of its fragility.
"…You like roses?" His tone was soft – curious.
Sakura's smile widened – not ignorant of that fact that Sasuke was actively trying to make conversation – and slanted her head to stare at him, "They're very pretty. Delicate yet dangerous," She looked back at the object in her hand and her eyes glazed over in reminiscence, "…Someone gave me a rose once…It meant everything and nothing to me…A bittersweet memory, I guess," She shrugged her shoulders and turned back to the Uchiha, only to find him staring at the rose intensely; she twirled it at its stem and his eyes slid back to her, "It was a sweet gesture. Unexpected," She chuckled, "It happened just as I always dreamed of it happening."
"I have always noticed you…And I will always be on your side."
She ran her fingers, once again over the soft, scarlet petals as a nostalgic sigh escaped her lips.
"You care about this man who gave it to you," It was an observation, not a question, but Sakura nodded her head nonetheless.
"I do," She smiled, "I'm really glad I met him." She chuckled, as if laughing at some inside joke, "He's charming, but I don't think it would have worked out."
Sakura shifted her stare back to Sasuke to see him staring at the empty space between them, brows furrowed with thought, and she giggled before tapping the rose's petals against his forehead, the action causing him to look back at her, scowling half-heartedly.
"Besides," She continued as she set the rose down between their sitting forms, "Roses are a little too extravagant for my tastes."
Sasuke didn't say anything and Sakura leaned her head back to stare up at the stars, comfortable silence accompanying the pair, once again.
Sasuke's soft voice was drowned out by the sound of familiar, boisterous laughter. Emerald and obsidian met before both ninja were moving their bodies to peek over the short wall towards the restaurant. Naruto and Hinata were exiting the building, arms looped together, still enjoying each other's company and causing Sakura's grin to return.
"I had a really great time, Hinata-chan," Naruto sincerely announced as he scratched the back of his neck nervously, "We should do this again."
Hinata looked up beneath shy lashes, hands clasped together, "M-Me too, Naruto-kun. And I'd r-really like that."
A shiver crawled up Hinata's body and Naruto quickly shrugged off his jacket – arms endearingly getting caught in the sleeves – before he draped the item over the Hyuuga's petite shoulders. But his hands didn't release her – his royal blue eyes stared piercingly through lavender – and slowly the two moved closer and closer.
'Go Naruto!' Sakura inwardly cheered as she grinned, right elbow nudging excitedly into Sasuke's ribs.
Unfortunately, distance was miscalculated and foreheads awkwardly collided together with a thud.
"Ow, sorry, Hinata-chan!"
The two then began a dance of uncertainty and discomfort as Naruto held his hands aloft, not knowing where to place them, and Hinata twitched her fingers, unsure of what was supposed to happen next – both were muttering um and uh and Sakura couldn't help but duck her head and cover her mouth to prevent herself from bursting into a fit of laughter.
'Oh, poor Naruto! Poor Hinata-chan!'
She glanced up at Sasuke and grinned to find him continuing to watch the pair, an amused smirk pulling at his lips.
"And he was doing so well too," Sakura whispered, his gaze sliding to hers, smirk widening a fraction more.
"Wow, I really messed up," Naruto's voice stated sadly, prompting Sakura to view the street again where the blonde was nervously looking from his feet to the blushing Heiress, "That wasn't how I wanted it to go…"
"It's o-okay, Naruto-kun," She placated kindly.
"Think we should help them out," Sakura whispered conspiratorially, "Not that they need it, but Naruto looks so flustered."
"…Do we have to?"
Sakura rolled her eyes. Sasuke was still smirking, the sarcasm in his voice clear and slightly exasperated.
"Yes!" She giggled in answer.
"Why am I not surprised?"
Nudging her elbow against his ribs and earning another grunt, Sakura gathered her chakra into her left hand, "This calls for a little finesse and a lot of chakra control."
She pressed her hand against the ground and within several moments the terrain shook marginally and Hinata successfully stumbled forward and into Naruto's strong arms. It worked.
"Cliché," Sasuke commented as Hinata's and Naruto's faces edged closer.
Sakura shrugged, watching until lips touched – making sure nothing unfortunate happened again – before turning away, "I like the classics." She grabbed his sleeve and began to lead him away, "I don't think there will be any trouble for him to walk her home," He snorted in amused disagreement and she glanced back at him over her shoulder, "I'm starved. Want to get some ramen?"
She released his sleeve and, once they were far enough away, they both stood and leisurely began to walk through the park. Sakura gazed happily at the open stars, hands clasped behind her back, and Sasuke fell into companionable step beside her.
Guarding and patrolling duties were always droll. At times it was a nice break from the hectic schedules Konoha's Hospital provided but Sakura always preferred the action and adventure of distance traveling and performing high-risk objectives. Squad Seven was currently assigned to the Hidden Leaf's massive gates, perched atop the high walls and observing the quiet forests beyond the safety of the village. It was always better to have a day shift, enjoying the sun and observing the comings and goings of the village's residents. Night shifts were very quiet and boring.
At least it wasn't raining.
Stationed at the top of the high walls, beside the gates, Sasuke, Sakura, and Naruto sat diligently at their posts, lanterns softly lit for their benefit, empty ramen cups surrounding the blonde as he dozed sleepily against the barricade. Sasuke and Sakura scanned the vast forests beyond, feeling nothing amiss.
Bored, Sakura twisted her head to look at Naruto – keeping her chakra attuned for anything suspicious – and smirked. Maybe in the past she would have yelled at him to stay awake but he had recently been hampered down by so many duties in his preparation to succeed Tsunade as Hokage. She and Sasuke had already offered to perform patrolling duty alone but Naruto had urged that he come along on the reasoning that Team Kakashi didn't spend as much time together as before.
As true as that was he needed his rest and Sakura reached over and zipped up his jacket before draping a thin blanket over him.
Sakura then panned her gaze to her other teammate. Sasuke was attentive, eyes never leaving the forests, quiet and intimidating, his presence powerful and secure – always so silent, always so firm, always so serious. She studied his profile, his strong jaw tightened, lips forming a straight and stern line. His obsidian eyes were dark with conflicts of the past – resolved yet still haunting him. His wrists were freed from their seals after months of continued loyalty and repentance to Konohagakure; and he was garbed in Konoha shinobi gear, hitae-ate tied proudly to his forehead. Besides the clothes on his body there was nothing else weighing him down except necessary summoning scrolls, kunai pouches, and his Kusanagi.
He was a shinobi.
"…Why do you always stare at me?"
Sakura blinked, her thoughts becoming lost at the sound of his smooth voice, and she watched him turn his head to regard her – he didn't look annoyed but rather curious.
The kunoichi smiled and a memory flashed vividly in her mind.
"I have always noticed you…And I will always be on your side."
Casually dressed. Jewelry. A smile.
Sakura looked down at the floor, her smile dimming fractionally as she thought about something beyond Sasuke's understanding, "…In another world, you were…" She trailed off and then shook her head, brushing off her words before grinning again, "You're very handsome, Sasuke-kun."
The Uchiha blinked once before ducking his head and turning his vision back to the forests. Sakura wasn't sure if it was the surrounding lanterns or if his ears were turning red. She smiled a little softer, holding in her giggles for his sake.
"Stop being annoying, Sakura," He mumbled.
"But it's true;" She protested with a laugh, "Just take the compliment, Sasuke-kun. You're very handsome."
His ears turned an even deeper crimson.
"Sakura," It was meant to be a groaned utterance of her name laced with exasperation but since it was Sasuke it came out a little strangled. Taking pity, Sakura only smiled before shrugging her shoulders and looked back out at the forests.
"If it bothers you that much," She sighed dramatically.
Sakura wasn't sure if it was gratitude for stopping her compliments or appreciation for the compliment itself. Either way, her smile only widened.
The summit of the Hokage Mountain was always a peaceful place to spend time. Sakura liked to sit there with the vast skies above, so clear and blue, and the bustling Village below. The Fourth Ninja World War had brought her perspectives into focus and as she looked down on Konohagakure no Sato, she would think about how fortunate they were to have achieved peace and that things were beginning to return to how it was.
To think everything could have ended – that everything could have been taken away and destroyed. The thought left her shuddering and she pulled her knees up to her chest.
It was always best not to think about the past – and the 'what ifs' always left her anxious.
There was a shift of wind and the distant sound of approaching footsteps. The chakra signature was familiar and Sakura didn't have to look to know who it was.
The kunoichi glanced over her shoulder briefly and turned back to view the lively Village, "Hey, Sasuke-kun."
Silence followed and Sasuke took a seat beside her, keeping a respectable few inches between them.
"What brings you up here?" Sakura began conversationally, sweeping her emerald irises over the numerous streets that crossed below them.
"…Naruto told me," Sasuke began softly.
Confused, Sakura turned towards the Uchiha to find him staring down at Konoha, a frown pulling at his lips, "Told you what?"
He didn't look at her, "…He told me what happened – with Obito. The Genjutsu. The alternate universe," He finally turned his gaze towards her, eyes darkened with a lingering sadness that took Sakura aback, "…The alternate me."
The kunoichi blinked. She didn't know what to say. She had never mentioned the event to Sasuke because it had all been in the past. And it wasn't relevant to the life she was living now.
So…why was he bringing it up?
Sasuke sighed and turned his head away, hands clenching at his sides as he stared at the floor unseeingly, "…He's the one that gave you that rose, wasn't he? You miss him, so that's why you stare at me," Sasuke frowned and Sakura could almost see defeat shining in his eyes, "When you look at me, you see him, don't you? You see the Sasuke you want – the Uchiha Sasuke of another world."
Sakura blinked. She was lost for words.
"You want him instead," Sasuke muttered and Sakura could hear it; she could hear the unspoken, 'instead of me.'
"I can't be him for you," Sasuke interrupted softly, "Naruto described this alternate vision of me and I can't be him–"
"Who said I wanted you to be him?" Sakura questioned softly, shifting her body to face him fully, hating that he was making this comparison so self-destructive, "I don't want you to be him, Sasuke-kun."
Skeptical, Sasuke glanced at her from the corner of his eye, "You said you were glad you met him."
Sakura only smiled kindly in response, "Of course I was. He's a version of you, and I will care about any version of you I come across," She raised her hand and cupped his cheek, turning his head to face her fully, staring straight into his dark and doubtful eyes, "But meeting him also made me appreciate you more."
Sasuke blinked and Sakura rubbed her thumb against his cheek affectionately, "You don't see him when you look at me." Again it was a question, but Sasuke always spoke in a way that it sounded like an observation. She grinned.
"I've compared you both, Sasuke-kun," She dropped her hand from his face and curled her fingers around his, stare never breaking, "I can't help it after meeting a version of you that could have existed if events had turned out completely different. And yes, he is an alternate personality – a happier and more open you – but that's him. You two are different people despite the same name and face. And I don't compare because he's better than you but because…well, because you're you."
Sasuke blinked and Sakura suddenly felt like she was confusing him further.
Taking a breath, the kunoichi continued, hands tightening on his, "Sasuke-kun, you don't ask me on any dates. You don't give me roses. You don't smile and flirt," She laughed as Sasuke scowled, but hurried her explanation on, "But I appreciate the times that you spend with me; the times when you're willing to have a conversation with me, the times when you simply smirk because you're having fun – I'd rather have those in rare exceptions than in actions of excessive falsity," Her smile turned soft as she thought back to that alternate reality, "The you in the other world didn't see me. He didn't know me. He didn't consider my feelings," Her gaze focused entirely on Sasuke, "But you do. And I'd rather have that," She blushed slightly and looked down at their joined hands, "That Sasuke was sweet and gave me roses and told me words I wanted to hear. But you, Sasuke-kun, you protect me constantly, you humor me when I'm annoying, you get shy when I compliment you," His ears grew red and her blush deepened, "…And you notice me. You don't categorize me as a fan girl or just any other girl…but as a friend. And that means so much more."
Sakura took a breath and shook her head, "I won't speculate how that Sasuke felt about the Haruno Sakura of his world – I was only there for a single day. And maybe he really did care for her despite the fact that he was always willingly surrounded by women – but I came back here. I wanted to come back to this world – and that includes coming back to you too."
"So…" Sasuke asked softly, still unsure, and Sakura realized just how insecure Sasuke might be because of his physical and emotional isolation from others throughout the years, "…when you stare…?"
Sakura grinned, "When I stare at you – as you put it – I think about how happy I am that you're home and that you came back. No, I don't look at you and see him," She shook her head, "I don't look at you and see a boy that told me sweet words and gave me sweet gifts," She smiled, "When I look at you, Sasuke-kun, I see the boy I grew up with; I see the boy that endeavored through hardships and pain; I see the boy who came back to me and Naruto of his own accord," Her free hand reached up to trace his cheek affectionately, "I see the Sasuke-kun that I've always wanted and needed; the one I'm thankful to have in my life and to have gotten to know throughout the years. I see You."
Sasuke looked at her – stared at her intensely in his penetrating, silent way – and she met his gaze without flinching. She wanted him to see the sincerity in her eyes. She wanted him to understand that it was always and would always be him.
Several moments later he looked away and he let out a breath and Sakura only assumed it was one of relief. No one liked to be a substitute for another. She had felt the same when he had created Team Taka. Reassurance was always helpful with insecurities.
"…Well, enough about him," Sakura hummed as she stood up whilst patting Sasuke's hand before stretching, "How about a spar at the training grounds, Sasuke-kun? All this sitting has made me stiff."
She grinned before holding out her hand for him to take. He stared at the limb before slowly sliding his hand into hers, smirking when he was firmly upright.
"Best two out of three?"
Sakura grinned, "Loser buys dinner."
And the two took off in a flash, Sakura's laughter dancing on the wind and the smirk lifting a little higher on Sasuke's lips.
Sakura rolled her eyes, smile gracing her lips, watching as Ino juggled with an assortment of colorful boxes and flowers. The two kunoichi were following the path towards the training grounds, one on her way to get in some extra hours of exercise and skill building and the other accompanying her until one Nara Shikamaru left his meeting with the Hokage.
"Shika-kun really outdid himself this time," the Mind-User swooned as she smelled the bouquet in her arms, "Valentine's Day is so much more fun when you're not single…um, no offense, Forehead."
Sakura shook her head, chuckling, "None taken, Pig."
"Do you have anything planned today?" Ino asked probingly as she adjusted the box of chocolates into the crook of her elbow, "Date offers? Dinners? Secret admirers?"
"Some flowers and chocolates at the Hospital," Sakura responded lightly, "A few cards here and there. And nothing special planned. I'm happy to go home and relax after a work-out."
"Oh Sakura, you need to find yourself a man," the Yamanaka admonished, "Tenten was surprised with a weekend vacation by Neji! And Hinata-chan is being taken to tonight's festival by Naruto! Even lazy Shika-kun is taking me out to a romantic dinner! Go out and do something!"
Sakura sighed wistfully, "Romance is great and all, but I think I'll wait."
"Wait for what?" Ino asked, confused.
The pink-haired kunoichi shrugged, but her smile remained nonetheless, "For the right person to spend it with."
Ino sighed and bumped her shoulder against Sakura's with a soft smile, "Well, I hope you find it, Forehead girl."
After Ino departed back to the village and after hours of training her body's stamina and strength, including a few mediation routines that honed her chakra control, Sakura laid on the forest floor, staring up at the darkening skies, exhausted as sweat clung uncomfortably to her brow. But the cooling winds soothed her heated skin.
The kunoichi lifted her head and eyed the figure that stood under the shadows of the surrounding trees at the edge of the clearing. Resting her head back on the grass she closed her eyes and raised a single hand in acknowledgement.
"Sasuke-kun. What are you doing out here?"
His footsteps crunched against the grass as he moved closer and she could hear him take a seat a few inches to her right.
"Hiding out." His tone was filled with annoyance and she could imagine a scoff crossing his features; she chuckled.
"You know, they'll find you here sooner or later," Sakura pointed out, "The training grounds are typical Uchiha Sasuke look-outs."
"Your company will drive them off," Sasuke stated.
Eyes still closed, Sakura quirked a single brow, "Is that so?"
"And what makes you say that, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura asked, voice teasing.
Sasuke was silent and Sakura listened to the birds chirp in the surrounding canopies. Just as she was about to open her eyes something soft tickled her nose. An inhalation of breath triggered a pleasant scent to fill her senses and she opened her eyes to see a single sunflower hovering above her. She stared at the large flower and its numerous yellow petals with bewilderment before sliding her gaze to Sasuke, who held the object by its stem, head turned away and ears tinged with red.
"…Because I see no one else but you by my side," Sasuke answered softly, hesitantly looking at her from the corner of his eye, "You've always been by my side – not just physically, but in every aspect – and I'd like you to stay there…with me. If you'll have me…"
His ears burned brighter and Sakura slowly sat up, staring at Sasuke as he furtively glanced from her to the sunflower to the ground and back again.
Uncertain about her silence, Sasuke continued, "You've always noticed me, Sakura. You've always known me," His brows furrowed, trying to call up the words, getting frustrated with himself and his lack of eloquence – he was trying damn it, and Sakura's wide-eyed staring wasn't helping.
The Uchiha jolted as gentle fingers probed the wrinkle of his brows, smoothing out the harsh lines before tilting his head to better stare at her and her smiling face.
"Uchiha Sasuke-kun," She took the sunflower from his hand and set it down on the floor beside her without breaking eye contact; her green irises misted with tears, "Thank you for being you. Because this you – this silent, uncertain, thoughtful, smirking you – is who I'm in love with. No one else."
Sasuke's eyes widened with surprise, "You…still…?"
"Yes," Sakura answered strongly and she leaned in with decision and pressed her lips tenderly against his.
It was a sweet kiss. A short kiss. Sasuke was left in a stupor as Sakura pulled away with a grin and stood up, taking her sunflower and bringing it to her nose. Slowly, a smirk appeared on Sasuke's features and he too stood before awkwardly putting his hands in his pockets, shifting from one foot to the other. His experiences with the opposite sex were limited so Sakura beamed and looped her right arm around his left, leading him off and away from the training grounds.
"Dinner, Sasuke-kun?" She asked as she twirled the sunflower's stem between her fingers.
"…The festival?" Sasuke muttered, tone clearly conveying he wasn't looking forward to the crowded streets.
Sakura brought the sunflower to her nose and shook her head, "My place? I'll cook."
A small, grateful smile lifted Sasuke's lips a fraction and Sakura beamed upon witnessing the rare occurrence.
"…Thank you, Sakura."
"What can I say?" Sakura hummed as she leaned her head against his shoulder, "I know you, Sasuke-kun."
Sasuke allowed his smile to grow wider as he shifted his hand out of his pocket, timidly entwining his fingers with hers, "…Yeah, you really do."
A/N: I…have no idea where this came from. Sasuke seems OOC. Wellz, I saw the conversations in my head after seeing previews of that Naruto Movie where Sasuke is a flirty, womanizing personality, and this came out after hours of nonstop typing. A lot of talking in this. I haven't written too much lately, so I've been doing little projects to get back into it. I actually reread Forbidden Bonds and liked my writing style from back then…I think I've deviated from that, my current writing isn't up to par as it was in that particular fiction. So I kind of want to practice a little more since I want to start Forbidden Bonds up again.
This isn't one of my best works, but I really hope I conveyed the differences between the alternate-reality-Sasuke and the Sasuke-we-all-know-and-love-and-hope-comes-back-to-the-good-side-in-the-manga. If there are any questions or confusion, let me know and I'll try to clarify it in a reply.
As for The Curse, my current, on-going project, it's half way typed out and will hopefully be making an appearance next week. I had a couple days off from work so I spent it with friends instead of writing. But it doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it, I can't wait to find the time to continue! I left you all on a bit of a cliffy, didn't I? Sorry!
So I hope you readers enjoyed the fiction, please leave a review with your feedback, I'd love to hear from you. Though I might not see them for another week or so, computer is acting wacky online lately, or it could be the website for me. Either way, I'll get back to you all soon as I can!
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and Company. Just the Plot and Original Characters.
I have a Tumblr now, called SincerelyLen. It's more of a personal blog if you're interested, but I have a few fiction recs and quotes I will put up and reference also. My Twitter was a fail since there's only so much I can say in a small box. Blogs are more my thing. Add me if you'd like?
Please Check-Out My Other Fictions!
Updates Soon to be POSTED!
Missing In Action
The Road of Touch; The Road To Feeling
A NEW STORY – Confinement
AND EVEN MORE TO COME!
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