This is in response to a request by ssvidel3. Pretty much listened to Blurry by Puddle of Mudd in loop while writing this if anyone cares. Enjoy!
Sakura stood outside Sasuke's door, biting her lip. Having heard her former teammate was returned by Naruto, she had been ecstatic to see him. Though she wanted to believe in him, she had her doubts. She heard that Naruto had been hurt pretty bad by Sasuke in the fight to get him back. Also, Sasuke had been acting so strange lately, even lashing out at his friends and abandoning her. She still held him dear to her heart, but at the same time, he felt so different, so dark. What on earth had happened to him?
She'd come to visit him first but he was characteristically cold to her. He refused to say nothing and eventually she was forced to leave. Now she simply stood outside his door, wondering if their teammate really was gone for good, despite his proximity.
She walked down the pristine white halls of the hospital to where Naruto's room was. Despite her doubts about Sasuke's current state, she felt she should thank Naruto for bringing him back. No doubt the rumors about his wounds were exaggerated. The idiot was probably sitting up in his hospital bed, whining to get out and get some ramen. The thought made her chuckle. Okay, so he was an idiot, but he could be a cute idiot... sometimes.
She frowned as she tried to find Naruto's room, edging around one of the doors where doctors and nurses were flooding in and out to an emergency patient. She idly thought that she'd hate to be the person in there right then. It sounded bad.
After some looking around, however, she discovered that the busy room was...
"Naruto!" She put a hand over her mouth and tried to fight the waves of people going in and out. She got a few yells, but it was one of the times that being the apprentice of the Hokage had its advantages. She deftly slid into a corner to observe, seeing that Tsunade herself was even there, barking orders as she worked on him.
Her heart sank. What on earth... She had assumed the rumors to be exaggerated. After all, Sasuke and Naruto used to fight all the time. Surely whatever was wrong with Sasuke didn't warrant this hard of a fight. What sort of emotional baggage had been unleashed here?
She felt her eyes sting, tears threatening to spill over when the thought came to her; this was her fault. She'd been the one to ask him, beg him, to bring Sasuke back and just look at the state it put him in. She'd seen Sasuke was pretty banged up, but she knew Naruto could get a little carried away in fights sometimes so she had shrugged it off. That and Sasuke, it seems, had fared better than Naruto after the fight. Hell, Naruto wasn't even conscious right then!
This... was this was Sasuke was capable of, then? All the troubles with Orochimaru and that stupid seal... Was Sasuke really gone for good? He was physically there, sure, but his heart didn't seem to be.
"Who did Naruto fight...?" Her voice was barely a murmur above the chaos in the room, but Tsunade's eyes turned to look up at her as if she'd yelled it. Her eyes had a mixture of pity, anger, and sadness. It was terrible to look at. She needed the answer, though. Maybe... maybe it wasn't all Sasuke's fault. She heard that there had been minions of Orochimaru with him, perhaps...
"Sasuke," Tsunade muttered his voice like it was a dirty word, and with Naruto as injured as he was, it might as well have been, "It was just Sasuke. There were others, but the other members of the squad divided them up."
Her heart sank. All this... from Sasuke, then?
She slipped from the room, her eyes finally overflowing with tears. This was a mistake. She should have never asked for this. She stumbled backward down the hallway a few paces before swiftly moving away, anywhere but Naruto's room. She came across another hall where she could see Asuma, Ino, and Shikamaru loitering outside an intensive care room. Right... she'd heard Chouji had been hurt as well. Neji, too. Everyone had risked so much and now so many of them were near death. It was all Tsunade could do to try to be in all places at once, since many of them were on the brink of death. She was just an apprentice and as such, they told her to stay aside for this one. They needed seasoned medic-nin for this. She was worthless. Again.
Ino's eyes caught hers and she was staggered by the sheer amount of anger held in them, directed at her. She could understand, though. If she hadn't been so persistent about this, Chouji might be okay. Ino had even told her that giving up on Sasuke was the best option at this point. She didn't listen, though. She never listened to anyone when it came to Sasuke.
She ran from the hallway, eventually coming to a stop in front of Sasuke's room. She didn't know what had driven her there, but upon seeing where she'd run to, she felt an intense fire spark in her chest. Not one of love, but of fury. Maybe she was escaping from her own guilt, who knows? However, she suddenly and violently blamed him. It was only natural for her to want her teammate back, after all, but Sasuke... Sasuke..!
She barreled into the room, her eyes blazing. She assumed the only reason the ANBU that watched Sasuke didn't react is because she was technically one of the staff there, as well as the fact that she'd been there not ten minutes ago. She watched as Sasuke's eyes moved to lock on her slowly, as if a cloud moved and he just bothered to notice it. He didn't even seem to care who it was that came in.
She clenched her teeth and marched up to him, unable to help herself as her hand snapped out and met his cheek too quickly for him to react. Maybe he saw it coming and just didn't care to dodge. She wasn't sure and could hardly care right then. She found her voice, though her voice cracked from her crying, "How... How dare you!?"
Sasuke's head had snapped to the side with the blow and he took his time straightening out his head, his eyes moving to her in a bored sort of fashion. If he knew why she was reacting this way, he didn't show it. There was no confusion, no remorse, no curiosity. He just.. didn't care. She was livid at this.
"How could you do that to Naruto? We were teammates! He thinks of you as his brother, Sasuke!"
His eyes snapped to hers and narrowed dangerously, "Don't you talk to me about brothers..."
She glared right back, unphased by his anger. To her, her anger was far more dangerous, "Oh, right, because revenge on your brother for the people you lost is worth throwing away the people you have!"
He looked ready to lunge at her, but an ANBU appeared beside him with a restraining hand on his shoulder. The eyes behind the mask narrowed threateningly and Sasuke sat back with a growl, "Get her out then, I'm tired of this crap. I don't need you and I don't need anyone else."
She shook with anger but then stood up, letting the anger seep out of him, giving him a look that both surprised and angered him: pity. Her eyes were full of pity as she looked down at him, waving off the ANBU who were going to escort her from the room, "Fine, I'll leave. But you're wrong about something, Sasuke. You do need us. Someday you'll see just how much." Her voice took on a wavering but cold tone, her eyes like frost, "Except by then it will be too late. Then you'll be the one reaching for our backs." Leaving that last warning, she turned and left his room to let it sink into his brain. She hoped he'd see the meaning in the words and accept them before it was too late. Perhaps it already was. Too many people already seemed unwilling to forgive Sasuke and she wasn't sure if she was against them on that.
She came back around to Naruto's room to find it a bit less crowded. Tsunade had moved on to another room by his point, leaving Shizune watching after Naruto. Sakura moved into the room and sat in a chair by his bed, her eyes critically looking at the machines watching his vital signs. He seemed oddly stable for what had happened earlier.
Shizune saw her look and shrugged, "He has a special sort of chakra that speed heals him, but somehow, his fight with Sasuke disrupted that. Tsunade-sama got his connection back up and running, so he's healing again rather quickly. She says it should only take a few days of bed rest and he'll be fine."
Sakura pondered this 'special chakra' for a moment but dismissed it, focusing on the information that he was going to be okay. She sighed and laid a hand lightly on his, watching him rest. Shizune looked toward the door anxiously and Sakura murmured quietly to not wake up Naruto, "You can go if you want to. I'm sure Tsunade-sama has her hands full. I can watch after him." Shizune smiled gratefully before dashing from the room. The pink-haired kunoichi turned her eyes back toward Naruto, sighing to herself. Never again. If Sasuke managed to escape again and leave, she'd let him. She wasn't going to risk her other teammate again for one that didn't give a damn about them anymore. All he could see was Itachi. There was no room in his vision for them.
She felt sheepish when she considered that might be the way she had sort of treated Naruto. In the fact of Sasuke, Naruto had been invisible to her. Strong, brave, and a strong sense of justice. He was kind of cute as well. She'd been so wrapped up in Sasuke she'd hardly noticed how much their troublemaker had been growing up.
She rested her forehead against the back of her hand, whispering softly, "I swear Naruto... this is the first and last time I ever ask this favor.. I'm so sorry..."
The next couple of days saw Sakura in the hospital a lot. She brought flowers for Naruto each day, several times each day, so his window was almost overflowing with them. Well... not all of them had been for him, but when she would try to bring flowers for Chouji and Neji, she was generally denied admittance and resorted to giving those flowers to Naruto as well.
On the third day, she was peeling an orange to eat when she saw Naruto's eyes flicker open. She dropped the orange on the plate in front of her and pushed it aside, standing next to his bed, "Naruto..? Are you alright?"
He looked over at her and grinned a bit, though it was marred slightly with a pained grimace, "H-Heya, Sakura-chan..." He looked somewhere between confused and sheepish, "I didn't expect to see you here."
She frowned softly, "Why do you think that?"
He shrugged, looking uncomfortable, "Well, you know... Sasuke's back and all, so..." He looked a bit worried, "Or is he? He.. he didn't get away after I passed out, did he?"
Sakura bit her lip and shook her head, "No, no... you didn't fail the mission. Sasuke is in the hospital as well. Two hallways over."
"Oh," he couldn't really think of much else to say besides that. He was curious, then, why she was there instead of with Sasuke, but he was afraid to ask about it. Instead he skirted around it, "So did he have anything to say? Like how thankful he is I beat him to his senses and had him dragged home?"
She stared past him out his window, a conflicted look on her face, "He's not... saying much of anything, Naruto. He's being cold and silent as ever. He doesn't seem to care that we care."
Naruto saw her expression and grinned, trying to wave off her concerns, "Ah, don't worry about it, Sakura-chan! Once we're out of the hospital, I'll have a nice, long talk with him about how much of an ass he's being and get him back to his norma-"
He blinked and looked at her, surprised as the hardened look in her eyes.
"Don't bother, Naruto."
He frowned, "Why? Isn't it what you want, Sakura-chan? You wanted him back, right? You want him back to normal, right?"
She clued in on his wording and it struck home hard that all of this had been for her. Sure, she knew Naruto's bond to Sasuke. She knew it hurt him to see Sasuke run away. However, she had a feeling he would have been able to accept it to a degree without her influence. At the very least, she was the reason he barreled after Sasuke with reckless abandon.
She shook her head, holding back the burning in her eyes that usually meant tears were imminent, "No, Naruto.. not if it means others getting hurt again. You could have died. I didn't realize just how serious about all this Sasuke was. I didn't think he'd try to kill you. That our lives here mean so little to him." She looked at him, her expression set stubbornly, "If he wants to isolate himself and be alone, let him. When he realizes he needs us, it will serve him right that no one has the patience for him anymore."
Naruto was rather surprised at this. She seemed to have done a one-eighty while he was unconscious. He wasn't sure how he felt about it. Sasuke was like a brother to him, but it was true that he seemed to only hold that information as something to be disgusted about. He seemed like a completely different person than the teammate he had started to really get a camaraderie with.
He hated seeing how torn up she was about this though and thought. Naruto was Naruto, of course, and wasn't really sure of what would make Sakura happy in this sort of situation. He only knew what made him happy and that was...
"Sakura-chan, can we sneak out and get some ramen?"
She was surprised by the sudden request then crossed her arms, "Naruto! You're still recovering, you can't just sneak out for ramen!"
He pouted cutely, "But Sakura-chaaaaan..."
She groaned and shook her head, "Oh god.. fine, fine. But you're coming back right after, got it?"
He grinned at getting his way and jumped up into the window, noting the flowers he had to maneuver around. It was sort of touching, even though he didn't realize the bulk of them were from Sakura, "Let's go!"
"Oh damn, Naruto!" She jumped after him, following him to the ramen shop.
He didn't seem very deterred by her yelling and just grinned with his hands in his pockets, "Ramen date with Sakura-chan!"
She blushed and huffed, following after him, "What are you doing, claiming this is a date?"
He wondered idly if he was going to get hit, looking over his shoulder at her with a pout, "It's not?"
She thought about her earlier thoughts about him, about Sasuke, and how she'd been refusing him so much. She inwardly sighed and felt a blush flood her cheeks again, her eyes darting to the side, "I guess... if you want to call it that, I won't hit you this time." She looked to him at the surprised look on his face and flailed her arms a bit, "This time! Don't get used to this, Naruto!"
Naruto just chuckled and beamed happily at her, "Alright, alright.. I'll just enjoy this one, then."
Sakura huffed and caught up to him to walk beside him. It wasn't her fault that it was hard to say no to him when he decided to pout. She couldn't help but smile a little though at his enthusiasm. It was certainly refreshing to be around someone so infectiously happy, instead of pining after someone who was so gloomy all the time.
Maybe... just maybe, this wouldn't be the only date. Maybe.
And End! I wasn't sure how to end this, sorry if it seems abrupt. It's only really a one-shot. I hope any of you Naruto/Sakura fans enjoyed it though.