Summary: We don't always get what we want. Sometimes, we get something much, much better.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Prompt: Holding Hands
Comments: This is my first contribution to SS Month. I hope you enjoy it. Please don't forget to review!
After taking back-to-back shifts for almost two weeks straight, Tsunade decided it was time for Sakura to take a break. The stubborn young woman reasoned that she had a lot of things left unfinished but a slam of a sake cup on the Hokage's table more than told her the conversation was over. Sakura sighed before she nodded once, both to indicate her acceptance and to ask permission to leave. Tsunade shooed her out with a wave of her hand, taking a swig from the sake bottle.
Sakura left the room and was walking down the corridor when she saw a familiar figure approach her from the opposite direction.
The young man looked up and onyx eyes bore into her green ones. "Sakura."
He was in full jounin uniform. Of course, he was supposed to return from his solo mission today! How could she have forgotten?
As he walked nearer, she realized he smelled of sweat and blood, a musky scent Sakura had been very used to. But what concerned her most at the moment was the owner of said blood. "Sasuke-kun, are you okay? Are you hurt somewhere?"
"I'm fine," he said, hands deep in his pockets, his head turning slightly away from her.
He always said this – even during those times when he was barely able to stand. As a manner of habit, she raked her eyes down his body just to check if something was amiss. Satisfied that everything was in order save for some small cuts and bruises, she murmured, "Right." Sakura took a few more steps toward him and gently caressed his cheek. "Welcome back, Sasuke-kun."
Although they were barely noticeable, Sakura saw the skin under his eyes crease. This was how she knew he was happy to hear it. "Hn. I'm back."
Before Sasuke went into the Hokage's room to give his mission report, he asked Sakura to wait for him in a tone so silent it was a surprise Sakura was able to register it. When he was done, they went down and exited the building together. They walked silently along the streets of Konoha under the dim light of the moon and the flickering ones of the lamp posts.
With only the sound of their soles on cement, Sakura looked over at Sasuke whose face had returned to that stoic mask of his, hands in his pockets, steps light and steady. Two years after Sasuke decided to be on their side again and won the war alongside the Alliance, most people still distrusted him, saying he would never change.
But that wasn't true, Sakura always argued for him in her mind.
Because if you take time to look closely, you can clearly see the small changes on his face that clue you in on how he was feeling.
Because Sasuke speaks a lot more now – with a little nudge from her or Naruto, that is. Although, being open and speaking more frequently are two different things.
Because even when he still preferred training and walking by himself, although hesitant, he tried hanging out with the rookie nine – the people who were now considered valiant shinobi in their own right.
But most of all, because he had accepted her. He acknowledged her growth, her power, her strength, her… love. She smiled as the thoughts of a second confession and an awkward Sasuke thanking her again and, in his own way, accepting it, filled her head. She believed he was really turning on a new leaf because he was trying to hold on to the bonds he tried so hard to sever long ago… and strengthen it, little by little, with the help of Team 7.
The sound of giggling roused her from her musings. Sasuke would never make that sound in this lifetime, no matter how much of a changed person he was. Green eyes searched around for the source and found it. Three lamp posts ahead were a boy and a girl, probably around Konohamaru's age, were walking toward them, clearly oblivious to their presence. As they came nearer, Sakura saw the boy whisper in the girl's ear and the giggling started again. Just when the younger couple passed them, she noticed their hands glued together between them.
Sakura looked down at her hand – the one between her and Sasuke – swaying with each step she took, and then to Sasuke's, shoved deep inside his pockets as always. She realized they never held hands before.
She closed her eyes, trying to will away the thought. The man she loved was not one to show affection publicly. He was someone who usually kept to himself and she always thought she would respect that.
That's not true, she told herself. He held on to her when he was first given the Cursed Seal, wordlessly trying to hold on to her and to sanity. He held her hand down when she was about to get him disqualified in the Chuunin exams. She used to always hold his and Naruto's hand when they were younger – whether casually or in battle. Yup, they did hold hands.
But a little voice – no, a loud one; a voice she long thought gone – told her it wasn't the same thing.
She looked up and realized they were in front of her apartment now. Yes, she was trying to be as independent as possible. "Oh." She turned to Sasuke and smiled. "Thanks for walking me home, Sasuke-kun."
"Go home and rest, okay?" With a small wave, she turned to the gate and unlocked it. "Good night, Sasuke-kun."
Hearing her name, she lifted her eyebrows in confusion at Sasuke. Then, he pulled his hands out of his pockets and in one of them was a small box. Her attention was undoubtedly monopolized by the said item. She was about to ask him what it was but she lost her voice as a large, warm hand gently pulled one of hers.
For a moment, Sakura stiffened and all she could hear was the loud and erratic beating of her heart. She thought she was past this phase when it came to Sasuke. But alas, this simple touch reminded her she still wasn't. Still, she tried her best to be calm on the outside.
Then, she felt something cold against the skin of her finger as Sasuke proceeded to slide something on it.
"It fits," Sasuke said, his hand turning hers to see it in different angles against the light of the lamp above them.
Wide, green eyes met onyx once again. A ring! Sakura's mind screamed at her. Is this what I think it is? Remembering to compose herself, she quietly asked, "Sasuke-kun, what is this for?"
"It's a chakra collector," he replied, matter-of-factly.
She must have heard wrong. "A what?"
"A chakra collector," he repeated. "I know you control your chakra better than anyone else. But if you want to use the Yin Seal more effectively, I think this will help store your chakra for you faster."
Somehow, Sakura regretted even letting her thoughts go wild. This was Sasuke, after all. Although he was a genius and one of the next generation's most powerful shinobi, he proved himself time and again to be as idiotic as Naruto in the dating department.
"Don't you like it?" Sakura was drawn by the clear disappointment in Sasuke's tone of voice. The skin above his brows creased ever so slightly. What could those lines mean? Worry? Sadness?
Then, his face was clearly irritated now. "Tsk, the dobe said you'd like a ring. I didn't understand why you'd want something so useless and would clearly be a hindrance when you're healing a patient. Then, I found this one. It's still a hindrance, but at least, it's not useless."
Sakura gave a weak smile. "It's unlike you to give out presents just because you felt like it."
Now, Sasuke was confused and because he was, Sakura was, too. "It's a birthday present. I'm sorry it's late."
Birthday? Sakura looked at their hands, still joined awkwardly. Her birthday was two weeks ago, she remembered. She recently turned eighteen. Most of the rookie nine, except for Ino , who was taking hospital shifts when she felt like it, had a mission. She vaguely remembered a stack of boxes in her office, apparently gifts from family, friends, colleagues or patients.
A week before that, Sasuke was sent on a mission.
He remembered and went out of his way to buy her a ring, albeit with a different connotation. But more than the ring, more than the thought that he remembered, Sakura was thankful for another gift. The one in front of her now – her small hand enclosed in his large, calloused one. He probably didn't even notice it and she liked it. She liked the fact that he didn't mind being so close to her like this.
"Sakura," he called, again with that tone Sakura couldn't pinpoint exactly. "I can get you something else."
He was about to slip it off her finger but Sakura turned both their hands and laced her fingers with his. "No, Sasuke-kun," she said, her other hand caressing his cheek once again. "I like it. Thank you." Gripping his hand tighter, she tiptoed to give him a soft kiss on the lips… that lasted several seconds.
Sasuke looked stunned when she pulled away. He turned to the side and let his bangs hide his face. "Aa."
Too bad his bangs couldn't hide the pink of his ears and Sakura giggled.
A/N: So? What do you think of this one? Please tell me. Thank you.