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the way he said i love you

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Occupying her hands was always for the best. Whether it be running her hands down papers to make sure patient’s files were okay, feeling for someone’s heartbeat and making note of what needed help or sparring with her friends and throwing a devastating punch to, it was best to occupy her hands. Occupying her hands meant that she couldn’t cross them over her heart in worry over where Sasuke was, if he was okay, if he was eating right (or just simply eating tomatoes and rice—she told him that no, he needs protein, but he still budged with that detail) or if he was simply okay in mind.

 

His mind was important to her. She had forgiven him for what he tried to do to her about two years ago, but she understood that others did not feel the same way. Still, perhaps the people he wronged could find it within them to forgive a man whose clan was slaughtered wrongfully, through a deceiving purpose? Could the world wipe Uchiha Sasuke from their lists and give him a new beginning?

 

It’s what he sought for himself. She understood and prayed for his safe return. She knew that traveling and helping others who needed his support calmed him down; just as occupying her hands calmed her down. Working in the hospital, facilitating with the mental state of children whose parents abandoned them during the war or died off… it gave her purpose.

 

“Nice work today, Sakura,” Tsunade noted. “You have definitely exceeded every expectation I’ve ever had of you.”

 

Sakura blushed at this and smiled. Her mentor warmed her heart and eased her with such quick, simple words.

 

“I want you to take over now,” Tsunade says, stacking up a group a folders, not meeting her eyes.

 

“I’m sorry,” Sakura says right away, staring at her. “I don’t think I’ve heard you right. You want me to take over-? What exactly?” she asks, tentatively.

 

“The Children of Konoha Project,” Tsunade replies, looking up at her with a questioning face. “What else could I be implying?”

 

“I don’t-!” Sakura nearly squeaked. This time, her hands were in balled up fists and she was astounded. Her and Ino began this project and research for mental health with the help of Tsunade. She couldn’t have started this without her, and she frankly could not imagine it surviving without her. Tsunade did everything with ease and demand. She was sure within herself. When Ino and Sakura would bring up potential ideas with her, she would either strike it down (giving of course, the rightful reasoning) or agree with it and put their ideas in full swing. She never dreamed of completely taking it over.

 

Tsunade was in front of her now with a side smile. “It will be okay. You are great, Sakura.”

“But where will you be?” Sakura’s eyebrows furrowed, “If I seek your advice, where should I reach you?”

 

“I want to travel around,” Tsunade replied. When she heard Sakura groan she laughed. “No, I’m traveling around but coming back. I’m tired, Sakura. I’ve lived to see… so many things go wrong.”

 

“And now you need to atone for your sins,” Sakura replied flatly. Tsunade swatted her lightly on the shoulder and her laughter grew.

 

“That’s not it! Shizune is tired as well. We want to retire in peace. I want to be with her more. I owe this to her and to myself too, if we’re really talking about mental health.”

 

Sakura covered her mouth slightly, how romantic , she could not help but wonder.

 

“I’ll do my best to make you happy. I’ll make sure I get along with Ino as well,” Sakura smiled.

 

Tsunade embraced her tight, “I know you will.”

 

//

 

The next few months pass by with a blur. She’s working, really putting an effort in. Putting her all into a cause she believed in, fully. What Naruto, Sasuke, Sai, and other kids in the village went through so long ago would never, ever make its rounds again and she would make sure of it. In no way would it be okay for kids to go orphaned and live without their parents. In no way would a child still sit in their home, a home that their family was massacred in. It wasn’t right—and she would make sure no one would live through those horrors once more.

 

In the center, she always made sure to have everything stocked up. Books, toys, assistants and health care professionals ready to listen, and nutritional food. It wasn’t just a center for mentally ill children, but a home as well. She would make sure that every child was sought to, even if she had to find them herself.

 

Her hands. Her hands stayed busy during this time.

 

//

 

“Are you okay, Sakura-chan?” Naruto asks her one day in his home. His warm, cozy home where he and Hinata lived. Hinata was expecting so a hand was rested on her belly as she drank tea. They were all sitting on the couch in their living room.

 

“Yes! I am,” Sakura smiles. And she meant it too—she meant that she was fulfilled and for once, happy. She was fulfilled. She found what she wanted to do and she wanted to nurture and care for children that needed that care. That was what was important to her, she decided. So she fully went into that work with her head held high.

 

“Do you know anything about Sasuke’s whereabouts?” Hinata asked, a small smile on her face.

 

Sakura felt her heart twist a little, an unsettling feeling. She started to fidget with her hands a bit, and when this occurred Naruto put his on top of her own.

“He will be fine, Sakura.”

 

Sakura gives a weak smile, “I know. I’m just… worried. I’m worried about how he will be accepted.”

 

“It will be completely fine,” Hinata reassures her. She put her tea down and now rested her own hand on top of Naruto’s and Sakura’s. “If not, we will make sure to help in whatever way we can.”

 

Sakura felt tears brim up in her eyes and slide down, “You two are too much.”

 

“Hey, we’re here for you, Sakura-chan! And we will make sure you’re okay,” Naruto replied in his Naruto way and they all sat together in one, huge hug.

 

//

 

It happens when she leasts expects it.

 

Sakura is at home, in her pajamas, making soup for herself. She often liked to eat soup and look over files needed for the next day. Her apartment is lit up with a few lamps; she has one bedroom and bathroom with a small living room. In this area, she made herself a little home. Her apartment was covered with different flowers and vases—Ino insisted that there be a different form of life within it. So, at almost every step there were little stands with flowers of different colors and this small detail lifted Sakura’s spirits.

 

A small knock suddenly disrupts her thoughts and she furrowed her eyebrows—who could it be? She expected no guests and she was in for the night.

 

She slowly made her way over (as to not make noise with her feet in case she needed to knock into whoever this person was) and through the peephole, she could not believe her eyes. Shaky, she opens the door to see him . He is in the clothes he wore when he left the village; a bit torn, but he’s there. The moonlight shines bright behind him and she cannot read the expression on his face—is he happy to see her? Is he as disturbed as before? (she kicks herself at that thought: he’s okay, he’s okay)

 

There is a clearness in his features. He seems relaxed. He is holding a small bag—stares back at her.

 

“Sakura,” he says quietly this time.

 

It’s all it takes to almost end her. Her throat tightens and her lips quiver but she says no to that feeling and she shakily holds the door open a bit wider.

 

“Hello, Sasuke-kun. Welcome home. Please, come in.”

 

She steps into her apartment a bit more, and accidentally knocks over a vase. Of course .

 

“Oh gosh,” she murmurs, bending over to pick up the pieces but the door closes and Sasuke is right there, picking them up with her.

 

“Be careful with your hands,” he says quietly. He means the glass shards. He’s looking at her, searching for answers and she can feel… something. She can feel his eyes but she dares to not look at him. If she does, she will cry. She cannot cry with glass in her hands.

 

When they pick up the pieces and the tattered flowers, she guides him through to to the trash can and they both dispose of what’s there. When she puts away the trash can she stands closer to him and notices his tiny scars of long travels and the weary bags under his eyes. Was he okay, or did the weight of the world get to him once more?

 

“Sasuke-kun,” she says gently. “Please sit at the table. Put your bag away in the next room. You need food.”

 

He nods and complies. She didn’t say ‘my’ room because in truth—she saw it as their home .

 

She gives him soup and tea, and she sits across from him. Some illusioned semblance of a normal life that they share, but it’s here.

 

“This is good,” Sasuke quietly says and looks up at her. “You cook well, Sakura.”

 

Her cheeks warm and she feels a small smile pull up on her face: “Thank you, Sasuke-kun.”

 

Sasuke tells her of his travels. He tells her of an older woman who needed his help rescuing her youngest daughter. He tells her how he helped free an entire village. He tells of her (with what seems to be a small smile) that he helped save every cat he saw that needed his help. In his own way, he is excited. And finally, he tells her how much peace he feels. He spent a few weeks on the beach writing and helping villagers.

 

He is fulfilled and strong.

 

When silence falls between them, they begin to speak at once:


“So what are you—”

 

“Well, I decided—”

 

They both stop and look at each other. Sasuke’s features soften and he lets her proceed.

 

“I started a mental health clinic for children,” Sakura smiles. “Well, Ino and I started it with Tsunade’s help. I’m in charge now, though.”

 

Sasuke’s eyes… she still could not read them but something absolutely falls upon him and he stares. “A mental health clinic?”

 

“Yes,” she answers quietly. “I want the children affected by the war to be healed. I want it to go beyond that, as well. I want kids who are orphaned, or abandoned, or… if an unexpected circumstance arises,” at this, she looked down because she could feel the air fall heavy, “...I wanted to be there for those kids.”

 

She looks up after a few moments and she sees that Sasuke is still staring at her, this time, his eyes a little wide.

 

He looks down.

 

Her lip trembles slightly. What was wrong? Was he okay? Should she not have said anything?

 

“That is incredible, Sakura,” he replies with strong words of affirmation.

 

Sakura’s eyes widen and her heart stops. She doesn’t tell him that the clinic idea came because of him. He knows. Their understanding of the other is beyond words at this moment—it’s just there, present, even after all of this time. They are looking across the table now, eyes in contact and taking the other in. She missed him so much.

 

“I wanted the village to do something. What happened to you and Naruto… should never happen again.”

 

Sasuke swallows and his features settle. He gives a small nod at this.

 

“I had to live in the Uchiha clan house for awhile, before they could find an apartment for me.”

 

“I know.”

 

“I had to live by myself.”

 

“I know.”

 

“I love you,” he replies firmly.

 

“I know,” she smiles.

 

“Thank you,” he says, once more.

 

And now, their lives can begin again.