"The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open. —Chuck Palahniuk
He didn't know what compelled him to do what he was doing right now. He wasn't sure. All he knew was that it was the least he could do. He had not been the greatest of friend to her. He was not the most vocal about it, at least. Too often, on a rare chance that he finally decided to open his mouth, all it ever did was cause hurt to flicker in her eyes before she swatted it with a smile. She did not deserve such a cruel treatment from him.
But he could not help it. He was not the most emotionally capable person in the village. How was he supposed to know that his words seemed to always come up as rude and unfeeling? She had always forgiven him anyways, understood that this was his nature. She always showed up the next day with a smile on her face, caring for him without a fail.
This time was different, however. She had left his house in such a hurry he did not have a chance to even clearly see the tangle of emotions that manifested in her expressions. Was it confusion? Anger? Hurt? Maybe more than those? He barely remembered. What he did remember, was the way he felt lost himself. His heart had beaten so fast, the palm of his hands had gotten sweaty. For the very first time in his life, Uchiha Sasuke had felt unprepared.
Sakura sank into her beige, leather couch with a mug of hot chocolate cupped in her hands. She turned on her television, flipping through the channels without actually paying attention to any of the shows. Her mind was elsewhere, particularly to that afternoon she paid Sasuke a visit to check up on the recovery of the injury he acquired on his latest mission.
It would have been like any other day, really. She had long ago accepted the fact that he would never be romantically interested in her. Their close friendship was something she had learned to treasure. For her, it was a huge progress that he welcomed her presence without fear that she would make a move to cause him annoyance as she so often did back when they were just genin. Their relationship revolved around their respect for each other as fellow shinobi, their trust as comrades, and their looking out for each other as friends would. They, along with Naruto and Kakashi, shared a deep, unbreakable bond.
So it came to her as a surprise when her routine check up turned into a small squabble—if she could call it that. There were no screaming, no throwing of punches; none of that sort. It was just a quick exchange of words, and she left without saying anything for fear of making it worse. It felt like there was something more to it, and trying to figure it out was giving her a headache already. Recently, she found it hard to puzzle out Sasuke's actions and the motive behind them.
She had only needed less than an hour to check up on how he was healing. Right after her shift at the hospital, she headed straight to his house and invited herself in. For someone who liked to keep to himself, he always left the door open.
"Hello, Sasuke!" she greeted with a smile, aware that he was most likely in the living room not too far from the entrance door.
She hung her scarf and coat on one of the hooks by the entrance and made a beeline for the living room. There she found him sitting on the floor by the window, where the afternoon sunlight seeped through. He was sharpening the last of his kunais, raising his head to acknowledge her arrival.
She laid down her bag on the couch and pulled out the things she needed to redress his wound while he finished up with his work. After putting away his weapons, he sat down beside her and removed his shirt, letting her unravel the old bandage that wrapped around his cut.
She examined it briefly for a second then started cleaning it. "It's good that you are following my instructions and avoiding heavy training. It's almost healed, but you still have to be careful or else you'll risk opening it up again."
She glanced up at him when he didn't reply, only to find him staring intently at her. Quickly, she settled her attention back to his wound, disregarding the look he just gave her. Of course, it was not something she should give meaning to. He could have just been merely looking at her tending to his injury, and it was by chance that when she looked up at him their eyes met. Besides, her sensibility stopped her from putting any more meaning to it. They were both adults now; her childish crush on him was long gone.
To brush off her unease, she began narrating to him the events of her day. It was always like that. She would always be the one talking, and he would just listen. Sometimes a word of agreement or discord escaped his lips. Talks about missions or training were the only times she could really pull out more than a sentence from him. Nevertheless, it was fine with her. This was how Sasuke was; he was more a man of action than of words. One has to learn to see that the smallest of his actions was worth a book to read.
"He brought me to Tabemasu. It just opened and they have great food! We should all go there when Naruto and Sai get back from their mission. And we'll bring Kakashi along with us." She finished wrapping his cut with a fresh bandage, disregarding the fact that the Uchiha had kept silent throughout her whole story.
"It's not safe for you to be going out with these guys."
There was a moment of pause. He spoke like what she did was so offensive, and she swore there was almost a growl that threatened to escape him had he not pursed his lips so quickly. This was not something she had expected from him. The way he spoke those words, as though he could not fathom that she was having another dinner with yet another guy, as though he spoke "I thought you are better than that" instead.
She had felt hurt that he would imply such a thing. Those kind of insinuations were not something she bothered herself with if it came from other people. But this was Sasuke, he should know her more than anyone outside their team. Gathering her things, she headed for the door without another word, closing the door a little harder than was necessary.
The snow on the ground gradually rose the closer he got to her house. Roof-hopping would be a much more viable option, but he wanted to take his time. He needed more time to think, needed more time to gather enough courage to face her. He could not quite figure out why he was nervous, because he refused to think he was scared. He had faced death a lot of times, but right now if he was to confront Sakura, just the thought of it was enough to send his thoughts hurtling to a stop.
Why he even bothered to come so soon and so late at night, the explanation escaped him. All he knew was that it didn't sit well with him that there was something wrong between him and Sakura. He likened it to being in a mission, where a miscommunication can cause them a leg or two. Why couldn't that woman see that he was only looking out for her? Maybe it did came out harsher than he intended them to be...
Her house finally came into view, and Sasuke almost had the urge to turn around and just wait until the next day for his routine checkup to straighten things out with her. This kind of discourse which he was about to have with Sakura was new to him; he was no expert when it comes to this.
The obligation to clear their misunderstanding lingered on the back of his mind. There was no ill intention behind what he said this afternoon. The idea that a few men had been asking her out for dinner recently, whether to thank her for nursing them back to health or not, did not sit well with him. Wasn't it only normal for him to look out after someone he considered a close friend? He was sure that Naruto would have done the same, although the blonde had displayed less irritation than he seemed to feel whenever Sakura started telling them of another of her dinner escapade.
Whatever this feeling was, one thing was for sure, he could not bear to hear another of those dinner stories from her.
Sakura was knocked out of her reverie when the doorbell rang. Wondering who it could be at such an odd hour, she carefully trudged towards the door, peeping through the hole to see who it could be. Her mouth opened a little bit in shock, feeling the pounding of her heart in her ears as it intensified. Sasuke was standing outside and she was not sure she was ready to face him just yet. However, curiosity got the best of her, and she opened her door a little.
"Hey, Sasuke. What are you doing here?" Her gaze fell on what seemed to be big pieces of paper that were nestled on his side.
She watched as Sasuke held the papers on both his hands, and she covered her mouth to hide her smile at the antics of the Uchiha. This whole scenario was something that would never had crossed her mind; it was so unlike him. She knew he was a man of few words, and this really took the cake.
It seemed that what I said
He got rid of the first paper, dumping it abruptly on the snow covered ground. Sakura's eyes scanned the words written neatly on the blank canvass.
Offended you in some way
She raised an eyebrow, wondering where this was going. Sasuke looked at her with the same intensity that his stare had been just this afternoon, and she interpreted it as a mix of embarrassment and a bit of forced defeat because he was an Uchiha, and Sasuke had never, ever apologized to anybody. Or at least that was what she thought the reason to be as to why he was there right now.
Tilting her head to the side to urge him to go on, she leaned on the door frame, wrapping her arms around her as cold started to settle in.
But it is only in my best intentions
Another paper joined the growing pile on the ground.
To protect you from your own obliviousness
Sakura rolled her eyes and laughed a bit. Leave it to Sasuke to apologize to her in such an indirect manner, with an added emphasis to her "obliviousness" to alleviate some of the burn on his pride. It did not matter though, because it was not everyday that she got to see Sasuke coming to her front door late at night, doing something achingly close to being described as... sweet—
Nobody will ask you out again
—Maybe she spoke to soon. Even in writing Sasuke was so demanding, leaving no room for any argument. Sasuke would always be Sasuke, she had come to accept that. Had it been anybody else, they would have thought him to be rude and arrogant. But she was no stranger, and she knew perfectly well that this was the closest Sasuke was willing to open up to her. She sensed that it was taking all of Sasuke's willpower not to drop everything and disappear and pretend this never happened because to put it simply, this was something she would anticipate from Lee and not him.
If I can help it
Her eyes warmed up at those last words. Despite the harshness of his words, he was actually very caring. He just never got it right when it came to showing it.
She was speechless for a moment. If anything, she interpreted the last sentence as a suggestion that Sasuke was willing to shift their relationship to something she thought she had given up on. She shook her head; it was too risky to make such an assumption. It had been far too long since she came to terms that all they would ever be were just very close friends. She did not want to ruin that now. There had never been any indications that he saw her as anything more than just friends. He was protective of her, yes, and she was the only female in the village he ever really hung out with, but Naruto and Kakashi, and even Sai, were always protective of her. That was just normal.
She was cut off her thoughts when Sasuke proceeded to gather the paper on the ground, turning to leave with a slight red hue adorning his cheeks. He looked a bit embarrassed, clearly tensed...
"Wait!" she called out. Maybe it was too risky, maybe she interpreted his actions wrong. There was still a chance that she was right, however. After all, it was Sasuke who actually took the time to write down the things he could never really say in person, it was Sasuke who walked all the way to her house just to stand there by her front door with a bunch of paper in his person, it was Sasuke who stepped out of his comfort zone to do something so endearing, it was Sasuke who dropped the first hint, and it was Sasuke who was leaving now with what seemed to be a dash of red on his cheeks.
And because it was Sasuke, it could not be because he only saw her as a friend and nothing more, right? And more importantly, because it was Sasuke, and he was pretty much handicapped when it comes to areas such as love, he probably hadn't realized it yet.
She ran up to him, mindless of the fact that she only had on a pair of indoor slippers with no coat to protect her from the cold. She saw him turn around and with no hesitation she planted a kiss on his cheek. Quickly withdrawing, she looked up tentatively to see his expression; he was a bit shock to say the least. She couldn't blame him, even she was surprised at what she just did.
"Um, would you like to come in for some coffee?" she asked, trying to ignore the warmth that crept up from her neck to her cheeks, hoping he would only think the redness of her face was due to the cold. "Come on! I'm freezing!"
She gently tugged at his arm, and when he did not resist she let a smile escape her lips.
Maybe it was not too risky in the end.
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." —T.S. Eliot
(bb) Ah, it's been too long (four years? five years?). Please enjoy the cheesiness of it. This is the only thing I can do to alleviate my sadness over the fact that everyone in the Naruto world is all grown up now, fighting a war, and any moment can die. This is for Naruto, who's fighting hard in the war; for Sasuke, who's now succumbed to the dark side; and for Sakura, who (it seems) will forever remain on the sidelines.
Oh, and if this reminds you of Love, Actually then you're in the right path of thinking. Andrew Lincoln..*sigh*