“I know you don’t need to be told to behave on this journey, Sasuke.”
A shift of gaze, “You’re right Kakashi, I don’t need to be told.”
“That’s good, because all eyes are on you now.” A hidden smile, “Mine included, no?”
In the few days trip back to Konoha, it isn’t long before someone with just enough influence becomes jittery enough with his presence to have him blindfolded. He’ll stay like that until sentences are decided. No one touches him. Sasuke wasn’t aware of who the worried soul was that offered the plan, nor did he know of the ones who agreed, but as he walked along the dirt path, quietly avoiding objects in his path, he wondered if they underestimated him.
If only a little.
It didn’t matter. He had no qualm with the scratchy material over his eyes, nor the persistent presence of foreign chakras flanking him on each side, exactly 11 feet away. They were a useless but politically sensible plan, should he decide now to turn against them once more; this, Sasuke assumed, is where the mistrust of his person lied. Kakashi was behind him, a permanent presence since he had murmured his warning next to his ear a day prior.
The jounin hadn’t spoken any more to him personally, but Sasuke had heard the occasional murmur of vaguely familiar voices whispering or chatting with the man. Naruto’s was the first and most persistently repetitive. The choice of the higher authorities to keep him isolated from other shinobi, even those who knew him from Konoha all those years ago, had apparently not boded well with the blonde. There was at least a few dozen whines or irate shouts every few hours, matched with Kakashi’s patient and unwavering denial of whatever request the boy was asking.
Amongst the normal ‘what will happen?’, ‘he wont be executed right?’, ‘cmon kaka-sensei, after all this you wont even let me talk to him?!’, there was the more direct approach where Naruto attempted to shout directly over to the other boy. Often, this was met with a reproachful bellow from whomever was ‘guarding’ him that day.
Once again, Sasuke had no inclination to reply to any of Naruto’s jibes or queries. There was little doubt in his mind that should he do so, he would only set off the worrisome persons that had him blindfolded in the first place. Although unfazed, he did not want his chakra to be capped or feet bound or whatever the other kage believed may be in their best political interests at the time.
Although, after perhaps the 30th call of his name and sound of even Kakashi’s voice loosing it’s usual monotonous calmness, Sasuke found himself thrown back into a nostalgic sense of irritation.
“Enough, Naruto, get lost before a thousand years of pain finds you,”
“You heard, dumbass, get lost.” He called out suddenly, coolly. The nearby chakras shuddered quickly in what could only be assumed as their person’s alarm or surprise, and Sasuke found himself almost amused.
However, it was Naruto’s sudden bark of laughter and call of “Sasuke-teme, I knew you could hear me! Talk later, yeah?” that made him smirk quietly.
With the sound of Kakashi’s sigh, he fell back into silence.
The Konoha cells were quiet as Sasuke had imagined they would be. Even as a boy, there had not been much crime that committed a man or woman to a jail cell. There was perhaps someone 7 or 8 cells down from him if the occasional hacking cough was anything to go by. He had wondered on occasion what he had done to end up here. It seemed bizarre to Sasuke that he and someone who had likely mugged an old woman or purposely set fire to a piece of public property could be incarcerated in the same space.
Although that is what had happened. Still blindfolded, Sasuke could only assume debates about his existence were taking longer than anyone had anticipated. Lack of sight had a strange habit of adding confusion to the natural timescale of days and weeks. It was something he had experienced before, of course, but it disconcerted him nonetheless – not that he would admit this, not as if he had anyone to admit this to.
Visitors were strictly forbidden he had heard them saying as he was placed in the room however long ago it was. Only for him, though. He had heard the murmurs of conversation and greetings from his jail mate down the hall multiple times. This alone, told him Konoha weren’t truly taking his incarceration seriously. Sasuke doubted that civilians would be allowed within the same vicinity as him should he be being considered a serious threat.
Even after repeated bouts of thinking, Sasuke was undecided about how he felt about that fact.
“You look like shit.”
Naruto was beaming.
Sasuke rolled his eyes and regretted the action, the movement suddenly causing much too much light from the evening moon to flood is unused retinas. He squinted momentarily, and grunted in annoyance.
“Pretty bright out here, huh? You wait til day time, I hear the suns even brighter,” The blonde was near cackling and Sasuke’s tether was starting fray.
“Are you here for any other reason other than to mock me?” He asked wryly, taking a dubious step away from the prison door they had just casually released him from. The act of releasing him at night was, again, no doubt, a political act as to not to frighten or alarm the civilians. Some may say an ex S-ranked criminal re-joining society could ruffle a few feathers.
Naruto shrugged, blinding smile sobering a little. The moment then became a little too close for the dark-haired boy and Sasuke scoffed.
“Sap.” He murmured as he took another step forward, aiming to walking past the boy and towards the rental apartment on the other side of town that they had placed him in. Sasuke didn’t, however, get all that far as the small movement sent waves of nausea through him and caused his vision to swim. He stopped in his tracks, closing his eyes.
“Woah woah woah!”
A heavy mass suddenly pushed into his side and his arm was unceremoniously slung around a person’s shoulders.
“I wouldn’t have fallen, dumbass.” He bit out, eyes still closed as the last few waves of nausea washed over him.
“Yeah yeah,” Naruto jibed, reshuffling his arm around his neck, “Being in there really does a number on you, huh?”. Sasuke was about to retort when a new voice interrupted him.
“…Sasuke? Are you okay?” It was Sakura’s voice, “Naruto, whats going on?”.
Upon opening his eyes, Sasuke’s gaze landed on the girl standing a few feet from the two of them. Her brows were drawn tight and she looked concerned, if not confused. It was the first time he had truly seen anything of her since Naruto and his battle. Sakura was not one of the people he had heard fussing Kakashi to speak to him, nor had he felt her chakra anywhere near his vicinity on the journey back. Logic told him she had been performing her duties as a medic-nin. There was no room for afterthoughts to this.
“Ah, Sasuke’s just a little weak from being cooped up for so long,” The tone was casual…except for the humourous lilt that coloured the word ‘weak’. Sasuke would have hit him had he had the strength. Currently, he would rather do nothing, than attempt and embarrass himself more so. Being in this state was enough.
“What? Are you serious?” Her tone was surprised and she quickly sidled forward, pressing herself flush against his other side, his armless side. The thought left a momentarily bitter taste in his mouth before his mind was pulled to her slipping her arm around his waist, carrying some of his weight.
“I’ve told them to keep everyone in their care fed and hydrated,” Sakura moaned, irritation clear. “It’s not healthy to be nutrient deprived for so long,”. She had the definitive tone of a medic and for a few seconds, Sasuke was slightly overwhelmed with the personal attention.
“I am fine.” He grunted, stiff under their touch.
“You look terrible, Sasuke-kun,” Sakura murmured and she begins the push forward, the three of them awkwardly beginning to hobble down the empty streets.
“That’s what I said!” Naruto exclaimed, with a chain of giggles following it.
It was foreign to Sasuke to hear such an admission from her. Sakura had never been so honest with him, in terms of things that could be considered offensive or unkind. This made him look at her from behind the lank, greasy hair that covered his forehead and most of his eyes now. Her eyes were set forward…but perhaps a little too intently. He continued for a few more seconds until he watched her green eyes slide slowly to meet his. At their gazes meeting, she jolted minutely as if caught and her eyes turned forward once more. This time, there was perhaps a little more colour to her cheeks than before.
Sasuke looked away. Now that action was much more familiar to him.
“You know what’ll fix you, Sasuke? A hearty meal-,” Naruto chimes suddenly, drawing both of their attention to the blonde. Sasuke has long given up protesting their aid in getting him to somewhere he can rest.
Sakura sighs, long and exasperated next to him, quickly followed by a long whine of “Naruto, nooo.” But he interrupts her anyway.
“-and you know what the best hearty meal is? ICHIRAKU.”
Sasuke is almost shocked that he didn’t see this coming.
Sakura tossed and turned, finally settling on left side. With her pillow pulled tight to her chest, she sighed and gazed out of her bedroom window. Her mind raced and she wondered if she would ever get to sleep. How many years had she dreamed about this day; the day that Sasuke slept, willingly, within the same village as the other members of Team 7? Now it was here, she barely knew what to do with herself.
She and Naruto had delivered Sasuke to his small, agiven apartment hours ago and yet she still relayed the moment over and over in her mind. It had been somewhat awkward, to her at least, when some of the novelty had worn off and it was clear Sasuke wanted to be alone. It was difficult, saying goodbye so casually as if they hadn’t finally got him back after years of yearning.
“Goodnight, Sasuke-kun,” Didn’t really seem to cut it.
Not only that but with Sasuke incarcerated, Sakura knew that he was detained. Frank paranoia nagged at her and she was sure this was main reason for her restlessness.
Sakura sat up finally. How could she be sure he hadn’t left again?
Wasn’t it this same nagging feeling that had caused her feet to carry her to the village gates when she was 13? The same instinct that bought her face to face with the boy, moments away from defecting from the village, in the dead of night?
“This is ridiculous,” She murmured to herself as she swung her feet from the bed, and swiftly made her way to her open bedroom window.
Ah, two for two, Kakashi thought as her chakra approached. Leaning a little further against the trunk, he silently flared his chakra. Almost immediately, he felt his student change course and within a few seconds, Sakura was landing on his branch.
He couldnt help but crinkle in amusement at her state of undress - light pink pyjamas, huh Sakura? As if suddenly aware of his mirth, she shuffled under his gaze, crossing her arms over her chest.
"I wasnt expecting to see anyone," The girl mumbled, suddenly flushed with colour and most likely regretting the decision to not change out of her bed clothes.
"Ah, if you'd come a little earlier, you'd have run into Naruto," He admitted, sliding his hands into his pockets casually, "He wasnt much more dressed than you. You kids have no shame." His jibe fell on deaf ears as Sakura clearly lit up at the mention of her other teammate.
"Naruto was here too?"
Kakashi nodded quietly. There was a stretch of silence where Sakura's gaze floated to the apartment building a few streets away from them. The jounin didnt need to follow it to know where her attention laid.
"He's still there, Sakura," Kakashi murmured quietly, taking in the way the girl's eyes dropped to her feet, brows furrowed. "He may be out of detainment but do you really think we'd just let him wander off again?"
Sakura pursed her lips before tentatively lifting her eyes to him, not quite courageous enough to keep eye contact for more than a few moments. Heaving in a sigh, she said "I just needed to check."
The man resisted his own urge to sigh as he looked upon the young girl with so much weight on her shoulders. The last few years had been difficult but Kakashi expected the worst was yet to come for his fated team.
But now was not the time to focus on that. Placing a hand on the crown of her head, he ruffled her hair making the girl startle and look up at him. He smiled.
"Go home and get some rest," He could already see the rebuke threatening to slip past her lips, "I wont let anything happen, I promise."
At this she stilled, looking at him from below her lashes and messy bangs. Slowly, but surely, she nodded.
"I'm glad they chose you to watch over him, sensei,". She smiled before one last lingering look towards Sasuke's apartment building. Soon, she was gone.
At this, finally, Kakashi sighed, relaxing against the bark behind him. They didnt need to know that he was here of his own accord, just like they were.