Ino had said she would be late for lunch because of a Biology test, so when someone put their tray down next to Sakura's on Monday afternoon, she assumed it was Ino. She looked up, about to say hi, but then realized...It wasn't Ino.
Sasuke sat down next to her and Sakura froze for a millisecond, completely unsure about what to do.
"Yo, teme." Naruto said from across the table. He clearly didn't think there was anything off about the scene in front of him, though Sakura saw Shikamaru raise his eyebrows from a few seats down.
"Dobe." Sasuke said, picking up his fork. He didn't say anything to Sakura, but the fact that he had sat next to her said everything.
Sakura took a bite of her sandwich and resolved to be comfortable about it. They'd agreed on that much, hadn't they?
Still, just the fact that he was sitting less than a foot away from her was…Well, weird.
"So, last week of football practice!" Naruto said. "Who's excited?"
"I'm ready for it to be over, honestly," Shikamaru said with a sigh. "Too much work."
"But it's our last season!" Naruto protested.
"We're playing in college, aren't we?" Kiba asked.
"Well, yeah. But it's my last season with all of you guys!"
"Wow, Naruto, I didn't expect you to be the sentimental one." Ino said, putting down her plate next to Shikamaru. She looked over at Sakura and Sasuke, giving Sakura a questioning look. Sakura gave a tiny shrug and Ino smiled slightly for some reason.
"We've still got the championship game, dobe." Sasuke said.
"We're going out with a bang, that's for sure." Sakura said.
"Especially the girls." Ino said with a grin.
"Oh, yeah? What've you got planned?" Kiba asked them.
"You'll see." Ino said mischievously.
Sakura rolled her eyes.
"There's no need to be so mysterious about it," Kiba muttered.
"That's the point of a surprise, Kiba." Ino said.
"She's building it up as more than it is." Sakura said with a sigh. She frowned at Ino. "What are you trying to do? They're going to expect us coming out of a giant cake or something." Their real plan for the game was just a solid routine with a few new moves.
"Damn it, Forehead, you ruined the surprise!" Ino said, mock-disappointed.
"Phew. I was worried for a minute about something like that." Shikamaru said, and Ino shoved him.
Sitting next to Sasuke wasn't as awkward as Sakura had expected, probably because she was ignoring any strange feelings she had about it. It wasn't like they were having a conversation, anyway.
And if they were going to go through with this new plan, then sitting next to him would have to be normal.
Practice that afternoon was action-packed and left them all exhausted. Sakura thought she should be enjoying it, since this was their last week (ever), but she was just tired. Still, she felt good as they ran through their new moves.
"Alright, let's stop for today!" Shizune called after they had run through several steps for the fifth time. "Great job, girls."
Everyone made for the bleachers and their jackets. It was getting cold outside (it was almost December, after all), and even though they'd warmed up during practice, everyone wanted to get inside. The football team had finished practice half an hour ago (it wasn't like they needed to work on anything), which meant the girls were alone walking down from the field.
Sakura pulled on her jacket and waited for Ino. The two of them had been planning to grab dinner with Hinata, after she finished her rehearsal.
But when they reached the front doors after changing, they found Naruto, Shikamaru, Kiba, and Sasuke waiting for them.
"Finally!" Naruto said. "You guys want to go get dinner with us?"
Ino looked at Sakura questioningly. Sakura could feel Sasuke's eyes on her.
"Ino and I were planning on meeting Hinata." Sakura said to Naruto.
"I know! I already called her, she said she'd meet all of us!"
"You just love crashing a girls night out, don't you, Naruto?" Ino said, shaking her head. "But I'm up for it, I guess." She went over to Shikamaru.
"What about you, Sakura-chan?" Naruto frowned.
Sakura rolled her eyes but smiled. "Fine."
They all walked to the parking lot together.
"You need a ride?" Sasuke asked her.
They both seemed surprised by how nonchalant it had sounded, because they looked at each other for a second (both frowning slightly).
"No, thanks. I actually drove today."
He nodded. "Hn. See you at the restaurant."
He broke off to go to his own car, leaving Sakura to puzzle over whether the conversation had been completely awkward or...almost natural?
To Naruto's disappointment they went to the Hidden Leaf Café (the girls' choice) instead of Ichiraku.
After waiting outside for Naruto and Hinata, they went in to find a table, which wasn't particularly hard. It was a Monday night, after all). Sakura sat down between Ino and Kiba; Sasuke was right across from her.
"Oh my God! You guys are all here!" Tenten had come up to the table, notepad in hand. She looked around at all of them, beaming. Sakura didn't miss her look of surprise at seeing Sasuke.
"Hi, Tenten!" Naruto said excitedly. "I didn't know you worked here!"
"Hi, Naruto." She said with a large smile. "How's it going?"
"It's great!" Naruto said. Then he turned to Sasuke. "You remember Tenten, right?"
"Of course I remember her, dobe." Sasuke said, irritated.
"It's…Nice to see you, Sasuke." Tenten said, smiling slightly.
"You too." Sasuke said.
"So, what can I get you guys?" Tenten readied her pen.
They all ordered and Tenten brought them their drinks soon after. As she was passing them out, Sakura felt Tenten slip a note onto her lap. Sakura unfolded it under the table.
OKAY YOU NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT HIM BEING THAT HOT.
Sakura rolled her eyes and passed the note to Ino under the table, who snorted.
"What's so funny?" Naruto asked her, frowning.
"Nothing at all." Ino said. "I'm just really constipated."
Shikamaru groaned. "Was that really necessary?"
"You really shouldn't bother asking that question anymore." Ino said, patting him on the knee.
"So, how was your rehearsal, Hinata-chan?" Naruto changed the subject.
"Good. I-I hope the performance will be okay."
"Of course it'll be okay! It'll be awesome! You guys are all coming, right?" Naruto looked around at all of them.
"Yeah, of course." Sakura said. Hinata had an important dance performance on Sunday night, and Sakura and Ino had both promised to come.
"All of you?" Hinata looked around, surprised.
"Yeah, we'll show up too." Kiba said with a grin.
"Wow. Th-thanks, everyone." Hinata smiled.
"You'll come too, right, teme?" Naruto asked Sasuke.
"Aa." Sasuke nodded.
"Busy weekend. Championship game on Saturday and then Hinata's thing on Sunday." Kiba said with a grin.
"The championship game's gonna be awesome." Naruto said. "I just wish it wasn't our last game."
"Everything ends." Sakura said with a shrug.
"Just let it go, dobe." Sasuke said.
"I know...It's just that this season was so amazing!" Naruto said.
"Well, no one can argue with that." Shikamaru said. "But there's no better way to end it."
"True." Naruto grinned. "It'll be our best game yet."
Saturday afternoon came faster than anyone of them were expecting, especially when Sakura found herself changing into her cheerleading uniform and then just staring at herself in the mirror for a moment. This was the last time she had to wear it, and good riddance. It was one thing she definitely wouldn't miss.
But it was strange, walking out onto the field for what Sakura knew would be her last time (she'd dismissed it easily when Naruto had brought it up that week). She wasn't planning on doing any cheerleading in college. And that meant this was her last hurrah, really.
She wasn't particularly sad, but as Sakura looked around the field, she knew she would miss parts of this.
Sakura exchanged a smile with Ino as they started to warm up by their bench for the last time. The two of them seemed to be feeling the same way, even though Ino was planning on continuing with cheerleading.
The bleachers were packed; the opposing team, Kiri, was from far away, but they'd brought a lot of spectators. Still, almost the entire town of Konoha had turned up, just as they'd done for the past few games. Even though it was the championship game, Kiri wasn't going to be a particularly tough opponent (this game was just one giant celebration for Konoha, really).
The girls gathered together for one final pep talk as Sasuke brought the boys together down the field.
"It's been an honor captaining this ship," Ino said as they huddled together. "One wild ride, but it's been fun. And you all can be a handful, but you're also pretty damn great. Which is good, because you have some serious legacy to live up to." She motioned to herself and Sakura, who rolled her eyes. "Aaand now I'll hand it over to Sakura for a proper speech."
Sakura shook her head and smiled. "Thanks for everything, guys. We really are going to miss you, no matter what Ino tells you. I know parts of this season have been rough, but it's also been amazing. And I know you'll keep it up next year."
A drumroll started from down the field. "Now let's go out there and show them who's boss, one more time!" Ino stuck her arm into the center and they all piled their hands together, laughing.
Sakura tried to enjoy every moment of the marching band's theme, every moment from the first blow of the whistle, but ended up just getting sucked in. Trying to savor everything never worked, that was just how life was.
Plus...It was just more fun to be in the moment.
At halftime, they ran out to the middle of the field to huge cheers and blasting music, and Sakura let the atmosphere take her away for one last time.
She knew she'd never forget what it felt like.
When they won the game 45-15, everyone went crazy.
Sakura and the rest of the squad got together in one tight hug, then ran out to the boys. What felt like the rest of Konoha followed them, coming down from the bleachers in a wave. Ami Watanabe was crying, and so was Ino as she threw herself into Shikamaru's arms. There was pure emotion running through the crowd like electricity.
Sakura was caught up in embraces from everyone: Naruto, Kiba, random people she didn't even know. But it didn't matter; everyone on that field was feeling the same way. Sakura laughed and couldn't tell if there were tears on her face.
She turned to look for him without even realizing it. After a moment, she spotted him through a space in the crowd. Sasuke looked at her, raising his eyebrows and smiling slightly.
Sakura smiled at him. A true, genuine smile, looking directly into his eyes.
A/N: Whoa. I started this thing in September and now it's almost May (kinda crazy). I'm hoping I didn't become my own worst enemy with the pace of this story and with how much your expectations have been building. Sorry, I'll do my best (I PROMISE!).
Anyway, I'm entering the hell known as APs next week, so next update will probably be two weeks from now, when my workload will be significantly lighter. CANNOT WAIT. Pretty sure my life force has been slowly draining from me because of work. It's great!
That was sarcasm. Wow, I'm sorry you're even reading this. I should probably just shut up because I can't even think straight right now.
Lol thanks for reading, guys :)