A/N: Update time! I'm not sure how quickly I'll be putting out updates from now on, but I'll try my best! Onwards with the mission!
There were a handful of times in his life that Sasuke could admit to himself that he'd felt a tremendous amount of vulnerability. A select few of these times were when he knelt powerless before his brother as he stared into the lifeless eyes of his mother and father, facing Orochimaru in the Forest of Death all those years ago, and even staring at his clenched fists in anger as he watched Naruto's skills quickly match his. Yes, those times were something that Sasuke had managed to bind under lock and key in his mind, pushing them aside to make room for the things that truly mattered.
However, as the early morning sunshine poured onto the crown of his head, he began to realize that his situation put him in a whole other version of vulnerable happenings.
Sasuke glared at the ground between his feet.
Screw vulnerable, this was just plain awkward. Not to mention, frustrating.
Sakura hadn't said a word to him the entire morning, seeming to ignore his presence as if his body were just air.
He'd been the first to arrive outside of Hokage Tower out of the three of them. He'd always been an early riser, even when they were genin and going on missions together. It seemed almost nostalgic to him when he woke up that morning, realizing that he'd be leaving Konoha with his original squad mates for a mission. Surprising as it sounded, the three of them hadn't been on a mission together in months, which wasn't a purposeful act. There just hadn't been any important missions for Konoha that required a three-man squad of their ranking, until that morning.
Sakura had arrived shortly after him, approaching the bench he was sitting on as her heels clicked against the road. Her eyes were focused on the road ahead of her, and it took her only a few seconds before her eyes swept over Sasuke's face, pausing in her gait.
He stared back at her, and nodded in her direction to acknowledge her. However, she frowned at him in response and quietly sat down next to him on the bench, leaving a big space between the two of them. She crossed her legs and placed her elbows on her thigh, resting her head in her hands as she glared at the entrance to the tower.
She'd stayed that way for the past twenty minutes as the two of them waited for Naruto to show up. Usually, the two of them would have exchanged a few lines of conversation, though it was obvious that she would have done most of the talking, while he would've just acknowledged her with his usual grunts of affirmation. But this morning, Sakura hadn't glanced in his direction once.
Sasuke felt his eyebrow twitch in annoyance, glancing over at her with a sour frown on his face. What was her problem anyway? Usually she would be picking at his brain for anything that she could use to start a conversation, or pick fun at him, which he usually took with stoic grace. His eyes narrowed as he continued to watch her glare at nothing, suddenly for once wishing that she would end the silence and just say something already. Why wasn't she speaking? It irked him to his very core.
"Naruto's late." he heard himself say aloud, wanting to bite down on his tongue for realizing that he'd been the one to break the silence. His eyes left her and scanned the area around them for any sight of bright orange, or to see if he could detect Naruto's chakra anywhere remotely close by. Suddenly, for a ridiculous reason that he himself couldn't even believe were to be true, he wanted Naruto there to diffuse the tension.
Tension...between him and Sakura...he scoffed at the irony.
He glanced at her once more, and this time she moved from her slumped position to pull her fighting gloves out of her pockets. She glared down at her hands as she slowly rolled the fabric over each of her knuckles, looking as though she were making it obvious that she didn't want to speak with him.
He'd never seen her act like this before. Sure, he'd witnessed her grumpy attitude towards Kakashi whenever he'd pick fun at her puffy eyes when he made them meet at the training grounds at four in the morning. Or, whenever a drunken man would put his hands on her shoulders and legs while Team Seven stopped at a bar on the way back from a mission. He'd even received a few glares from her when he'd occasionally piss her off for a trivial matter, but this morning clearly took the cake.
His frown deepened into a scowl. Scoffing, he brought his eyes up to her face. "If you're going to act like a child then you could at least tell me why."
That did it.
Her hands froze as she was in the process of putting on her left glove, holding her hand out in front of her. In a flash, she clenched her hand into a fist and finally turned her head towards him with lightning speed, her hair sweeping across her bare shoulders as her eyes bore dangerously into his. This took him by surprise, as he didn't expect her to even respond to him, let alone make eye contact. And as her emerald eyes looked as though they wanted to melt his skull and obliterate him in the very spot that he sat in, he glared right back at her, holding his ground. Whatever he had said had triggered something unrecognizable in the girl who sat before him, and he couldn't ignore the pit that began to form in his stomach.
Their blond teammate's irreplaceable voice rang out in the air as the two shinobi dropped their intense stares to direct their attention towards Naruto, who waved at them as he approached the bench. "Made it just in time, right?" he stated, rather than questioned.
"Appears so." Sasuke said as Sakura rose from her seat quietly and hoisted her backpack onto her shoulders. She exhaled slowly, Sasuke watching her every move as she began to walk towards Naruto.
She put her gloved hand on his shoulder as she walked past him towards the entrance of Hokage Tower. "You said that last time." she told him, stopping in her steps to glance back at the boys. "Let's go. Right now Lady Tsunade has probably started drinking her third mimosa of the morning, and we don't want to get to her office before she's downed it all."
The two shinobi watched as their teammate calmly continued walking towards the entrance, leaving Sasuke scowling at her back, frustrated enough to burn a hole in the fabric of her backpack.
"So, what'd you do this time?"
Sasuke redirected his glare to Naruto as he casually rested his arm on his friend's shoulder, looking ahead at Sakura. "I haven't seen her this pissed off since that drunk guy spilled soy sauce all over her head that one time."
Sasuke rolled his eyes. "And why do you think it's just me she's pissed at?"
Naruto nodded to himself in affirmation, his eyes closed as he giggled. "I may not be an expert on how a girl's mind works, but usually they acknowledge your existence unless you've done something to make them angry."
Sasuke directed his eyes to Naruto. "You were watching." he stated.
Naruto shrugged. "For about fifteen minutes, before I got bored anyway. Man, I knew that Sakura-chan was a grudge holder but damn! You really fucked up, didn't you?"
Sasuke grabbed Naruto's arm and threw it off of his shoulder in disgust. "I didn't fuck up anything."
Naruto rolled his eyes and playfully slapped Sasuke's shoulder as he began to walk the same path as Sakura.
"Sure, because it's never your fault."
The three shinobi watched as their Hokage tossed her head back and gulped down the orange liquid, hearing her sigh contently as her cheeks began to flush from the alcohol. Shizune, who stood behind Tsunade's chair, sighed in defeat as the fumes from the alcohol perfumed the air.
Sakura was so tempted to steal a bottle of alcohol from Tsunade and down it all in one gulp.
She was still fuming over what had happened outside of the tower. What right had he to call her childish?! If anything, he was the one who was acting childish, hiding things from her for...for what? She wouldn't just let it this slide, she wouldn't let his hypocrisy dominate how she felt or how she treated him. If he expected her to tell the truth, then she could expect him to.
She glanced at him from the corner of her eye as he watched Tsunade pour herself another glass of the sparkling orange liquid, looking entirely disinterested.
"M'lady," Shizune tried, though Sakura knew it was useless for the woman to try to reason with Tsunade when it came to alcohol. "Maybe you should-"
"Tastes better and better each time." Tsunade sighed as she brought her fourth glass to her glossed lips.
"If this adult tea party is over, we'd like to hear the details of our mission." they all heard Sasuke say dryly, to which Sakura sighed in frustration.
Tsunade glared at the Uchiha as she drank half of her glass, and slowly brought the cup away from her lips and jokingly held it out to his direction. "Would you like a sip? Maybe it'll loosen you up, something you should try."
Naruto snickered quietly as Tsunade let go of her offer and downed the rest of the glass without hearing a response from Sasuke, not that she expected to.
"Well anyway," Tsunade sighed, putting her glass down on her desk and abandoning her joking demeanor for a serious one. "I'll be brief. This mission that I'm sending the three of you on isn't something to take lightly, however I should expect an answer from you three by the end of the day."
Naruto frowned. "An answer?"
Tsunade nodded as she made eye contact with Sakura, who gave her undivided attention to her master. "Actually, call it a completion of another mission."
Sakura frowned, wondering what Tsunade was getting at before she continued to speak, this time turning towards Sasuke. "While there have been a few...distractions to say the least, I haven't put that mission under the completion file just yet. There are some loose ends that need to be tied up, and who better to tie them than the two who started it all?"
The three shinobi were silent for a few seconds before Naruto broke it.
"What? What does that mean?" he asked, looking back and forth from Sakura to Sasuke as his blue eyes swam with confusion.
Tsunade glanced back at Sakura, and continued to stare at her student, almost as if to send her a message. At first, Sakura was puzzled at the look she was receiving, wondering why she felt so out of the loop. Tying up loose ends? What did that have to do with-
Sakura's jaw was tight set as the message suddenly became all to clear to her, her eyes widening as Tsunade smiled softly at her, knowing that her student had received the message loud and clear.
Of course she would be tying up loose ends, after all, she was the one who undid them.
To Sasuke, the message was loud and clear.
He felt his fists clench at his sides as the Hokage nodded in his direction, knowing that he was too clear on what she meant when she spoke about loose ends.
So, this is what the Hokage had in store for them.
He automatically felt his eyes being drawn to his pink-haired teammate, and to his surprise, their eyes met each other's for the third time that day, only this time she didn't appear to want to murder him with her stare. Her green eyes were swimming with nerves as she frowned at him, prompting Sasuke to immediately dive into his own train of thoughts. What was going through her head at that very moment? Surely nothing short of anything that he could guess, but then again, he rarely ever knew what she was thinking anymore.
Then again, he didn't know what he himself was thinking about this mission.
Tsunade opened the drawer in her desk smoothly, and Sasuke knew immediately what she was pulling out of it from the sudden scraping noise that rang out in the Hokage office. A small clink was heard as she flashed the pendant to the three shinobi, clutching onto the gold chain as the opal stone swung from left to right. Sasuke trained his eyes on the pendant sourly, and out of habit, he felt his chakra flow into his eyes as he felt a spike of exhilarating power that came with activating his sharingan. His eyes bore into the pendant, searching for any sign of abnormalities or lingering chakra, even though he knew that in the back of his mind he wouldn't find any. Yamato hadn't seen any chakra left in the stone the night that he and Sakura met with Tsunade. But then, Yamato didn't posses an intriguing eyes like he did.
Sighing softly, Sasuke let his eyes return to their normal obsidian shade.
"I want the three of you to go back to where this was held before we took it back in our possession." Tsunade told them, her eyes sweeping across all three of them. "In Sasuke's report, he mentioned a few things that I want to you check up on. I originally would have sent just the original two who had departed on this mission, but I'm including you in this Naruto, I believe that having another body in this mission would come in handy."
"That, and she knew that you'd end up following the two of them out of the village if she didn't assign you to this mission." Shizune sighed to herself in the back, prompting Sasuke to smirk.
Naruto himself rolled his eyes. "Well, you're not wrong."
"And if anything were to happen, I want another person to be there for damage control." Tsunade nodded to Naruto. "I assume that I can leave that in your hands?"
Naruto crossed his arms, taking on a serious demeanor as he confirmed the Hokage's words. "I'm not gonna let anyone hurt my friends." he told her. "That's something you can always count on."
Tsunade, satisfied with his answer, turned to look at her student. "Sakura, as your teacher I know how strong and capable you are. But, I'm not going to make you do something that you aren't ready for. That being said, is this something that you can handle?"
All eyes went to Sakura, who blinked in surprise at her teacher, Sasuke watching her intently. She lowered her eyes to the ground in thought, her expression completely unreadable as Sasuke continued to study her carefully. And the more he watched her, the more he suddenly wished that the two of them had never been sent on that damn mission.
Hadn't she been through enough? All these past weeks must have been unbearably hard on her, and yet she always kept up this image of an unharmed girl who didn't seem to let what happened to her rule her life, but he knew better. On the occasions that she would let her true feelings slip through, he saw just glimpses of what this was doing to her mentally.
And the more he witnessed it, the more he wanted to make whoever did this to her suffer.
Which is why he smirked when she clenched her fists tightly and tore her gaze away from the floor to meet her fate, flashing a determined look to the Hokage.
Tsunade smiled. "I expected as much."
There were only a few, rare occasions in Naruto's life in which he could confidently say were some of his favorite moments he'd experienced while living on this earth. Some of them consisted of training with Jiraiya for months, eating steaming bowls of ramen, the night he finally told Hinata that he loved her, and though he wouldn't admit this one aloud to Sasuke, the day that the Uchiha finally came home.
But seeing his best friend scowl over a girl? Now that was worthy of his list.
Alright, well, he had to admit that it was suffocating seeing his friends blatantly ignore each other, or rather, Sakura ignoring Sasuke for whatever wrong thing that he did to her, no matter how many times Sasuke would scoff at the idea that he hadn't done anything to her that would provoke such behavior. More than anything, he was glad that it wasn't him that she was giving this special treatment to.
But even so, the tension between his teammates couldn't have come at a more inconvenient time. And as they finally could see the entrance gate to Konoha, Naruto knew that this mission wasn't going to be a major bonding experience.
He gravitated towards his scowling teammate, who looked as though he wanted to jump off of a bridge, but then he always had that look on his face. Naruto's eyes carefully looked ahead at Sakura's back, as she walked a few feet ahead of them. Good, she was out of ear-sight.
"So," Naruto began, nudging Sasuke with his elbow "Since you didn't do anything to Sakura-chan, why don't you ask her why she's so mad-"
"I'm not going to say it again." Sasuke cut him off abruptly, shooting him a death stare.
Naruto rolled his eyes. If he had a bowl of ramen for every death stare he'd received from Sasuke, he'd be swimming in the delicious broth by then. "Fine. Be stubborn. But I think I know what your problem is." he stated, nodding to himself as Sasuke gave him the side-eye.
But truthfully, Naruto had had enough. He'd known his teammates for a large majority of his life, and when one of them was angry, it destroyed their entire vibe. Not to mention, Naruto hated it when they fought, whether it was him and Sasuke or Sasuke and Sakura. And right in that moment, on that day, he knew more than ever that they needed to make-up.
Or maybe even kiss and make-up.
"You know what my problem is?" Sasuke replied to him dryly, making his words sound more like a statement rather than a question.
Now it was Naruto's turn to scowl at his teammate. "Yeah, I do. Your problem, Sasuke, is that you're too proud and too stubborn to admit that for once, you're wrong! I mean this isn't the first time you've been in the wrong, but my point still stands!" Naruto exclaimed, taking a huge breath before deciding to go in for the kill. "And it certainly doesn't help that you probably haven't gotten laid in mo-"
That did it.
Sasuke swung his fist at Naruto's face, who barely dodged it by backflipping and landing in a crouched position a few feet away. He rose to his feet, anger swimming in his eyes as he stalked towards his black-haired teammate.
"You see?!" he exclaimed, jabbing his finger into Sasuke's chest. "This is the problem! Whenever you're in the wrong you always resort to either punching me or pushing people away!"
Sasuke's eyes bled into his sharingan. "If you keep talking I'm-"
Sasuke voice was immediately cut off by a hand grabbing his shirt and clenching it tightly, while Naruto felt another hand grab the back of his collar, and he immediately choked down whatever retort he planned on using against Sasuke as he looked into Sakura's fiery eyes.
Both boys looked at each other warily.
"Knock it off." Sakura told them, her voice a calm before the storm that Naruto knew she was capable of brewing by herself.
Naruto watched Sasuke carefully, noting how he looked down to stare at her hand, then followed her arm up to her face. Sasuke shot a glare at her, silently telling her to let go of his shirt. Sakura hadn't noticed his angry stare until a few seconds later, and she sent the glare back at him, with just as much intensity.
Naruto sighed. As childish as his taunting may have been, he knew that he was right. The two of them needed to end...whatever this was. This wasn't the first time that Naruto had been kept out of the loop in a fight between the two of them, and if he were being honest, he really didn't care. He didn't know what was worse, the fighting tension...or the sexual tension.
Sakura sighed and let go of the boys. "I need the two of you to do me a favor."
The boys glanced at each other once more, both of them unsure as to what she would ask of them, other than asking them to behave on the mission, something that wasn't new to either of them in the least bit.
She turned her back to them, and before she began walking, she left them with three chilling words.
"Don't baby me."
They watched her walk ahead of them for a few feet, her pink hair blowing in the warm summer wind. Her heels clicked assertively on the rocky path below their feet, and she surprised them when she looked back at them and flashed a small smile. "I got this."
They watched her for a few more seconds before Naruto and Sasuke started following their teammate, but not before Naruto turned to Sasuke.
"You haven't told her yet?"
Sasuke turned to look at Naruto, and for just a second, Naruto swore that he saw something that resembled regret flashing in his eyes. That was all Naruto needed to get his answer. He sighed and shook his head. "She deserves to know."
Naruto knew his best friend. Sasuke was many things, but he knew where his loyalties were and who he placed his energy into. As much as Naruto wanted the truth to come out, he knew it wasn't his truth to tell. But damn it, he just wanted his friends to be happy again.
He wanted him to be happy again.
A/N: And there you have it! The baes are a little salty with each other right now, but how long will that last? Only I know the answer to that! More details of their mission will be revealed when they reach their destination, so look out for that!
I hope you're all enjoying, and please leave a review if you have time!
Love you to Konoha and back! xx