"SAKURA-CHAN! YOU HAVE KISSED ME?”
Sakura doesn’t have the time to explain what CPR is and isn’t, because Sasuke throws the pillow so hard he pins Naruto to the wall with the force.
“I thought you were supposed to have made up,” - she says as she listens to the satisfying crunch signalling that the bone went into the socket. Now only ribs left, bruises and scratches heal too easily on Naruto, so Sakura refuses to heal them. Naruto, she knows, has to feel the pain from the fights in order to stop getting into them. Or not stop, but go easy there.
Not that easy fights are possible for him with Sasuke back in the village.
“It is all him,” - he whines loudly and she punches him to stop screaming and fidgeting. She isn’t about to destroy her perfect rib-repairing score, Ino will literally get into her mind and squeeze the truth out. And Sakura is never going to lose to Ino.
“I highly doubt that Sasuke-kun would ever…” - she starts. Sasuke never picks up the fights, she remembers from the early years. He is too mature for that. He just never backed down from any of them.
Both Naruto and Sasuke are handless, but it still doesn’t stop them from destroying near half the village with their fights. It’s been a long and weird time, and Sasuke has been weird while assimilating.
“Sakura-chaaaan,” - Naruto smiles in a weird way. Like she is stupid. She barely manages to stop herself from ripping his other hand.
“What?” - she barks out.
Naruto looks at her, smiling and smiling, it is so weird. Sakura thinks about telling Naruto that he looks like a creep.
Then he sighs, and says:
“I knew this was going to happen when he came back.”
The one that literally everyone asks of Sakura without truly asking about it in any way. They just drop the phrase: “Oh. Sasuke is back…”, nudge, nudge and then keep quiet while wiggling their eyebrows in this weird silence. That reaction, of course varies. From Ino who just never shuts about it to Shikamaru who says nothing, nor does he bother to look the way others do when she and Sasuke happen to be in one place (people watch them like they watch a fight, no little detail escaping), but Sakura can virtually feel the carefully absorbed information he has in his mind.
Sakura was always known in the village as the girl who’s had crush on Sasuke, so she is used to that. And Sakura knows that Sasuke wouldn’t care about any of it.
What surprises Sakura is how everyone assumes that something is about to happen between them, if something hasn't happened already.
She doesn’t love him that selfishly. She doesn’t love him to impose anything onto him. She wanted to save him, and he is saved now, so Sakura feels content.
That is something she tells herself. She isn’t going to pretend that she doesn’t hope for Sasuke to become a part of her team, she hopes for the rebirth of team 7, but with Kakashi taking Tsunade’s office, that dream seems unobtainable. She hopes for him to stay. She, there is no use to argue about it, dreams of being with him. She loves him in a way that she has never, nor will ever, love anyone else.
But nothing happens, and Sakura remembers the early years of team 7. She was happiest then, and she knows that she is happiest now. Sasuke is back.
Nothing has changed. Not for her. Not for him.
It doesn’t take long for Naruto to understand what bothers Sasuke.
The day before.
“You stupid fuck, Sasuke thinks you and Sakura are dating,” - says Shikamaru while lazily fanning the sweat out.
“No, he doesn’t.”
“Yes, he does,” - Shikamaru says it confidently. And what? Why would Sasuke think so? And more importantly, how would Shikamaru know? Naruto is Sasuke’s best friend, he is the one who knows him best.
He asks the questions of Shikamaru, who looks like it is so much trouble to just answer them.
Shikamaru has approximately a shit load of explanations for Sasuke’s lovely temper. In this days after the war, the last Uchiha seems particularly pleasing.
Shikamaru just observes. He likes a good mystery to ponder on every once and awhile.
About half of the explanations can be cut down by the fact that while Sasuke’s manners have not been improved by whatever the fuck he’s been doing in those years away, he still is civil to some. Uchiha’s level civil which means that there are some people whose backbone he isn’t trying to pull out.
Sai basically is forced to the mute role, because Sasuke doesn’t even need a reason to start fuming, daring Sai to ask what’s wrong with him.
Rock Lee gets the first person apart from his teacher who is always ready to fight. Sasuke never declines the invitation to fight from the guy. They both fight like the war is still real. Kakashi and Guy watch the two of them, almost bawling their eyes out. “The life continues, Kakashi. Our rituals will live on in the new world,” - Shikamaru can easily imagine everything Guy thinks about those sparring matches.
A searching mission that Sasuke goes on with Shino ends with Shino abandoning his usual pose and begging the Hokage to never place them in the same team ever again.
Shikamaru himself becomes the target of the unusual rage, right after the mission with Shino. It isn’t like Sasuke attacks him. He only fumes, and seems to wordlessly beg Shikamaru to spar him. Like Shikamaru is that stupid. He is strangely fond of his backbone.
Everything about the direction of the anger seems more or less within the predictable brackets, until Shikamaru hears how Sasuke speaks with the Hokage.
Kakashi says that he and Sakura will have to go on a mission, and Sasuke scoffs and mutters that useless people shouldn’t bother with going to missions. Definitely a jab on the lack of the sharingan of Kakashi. He says it in front of everyone and Shikamaru sees how Ebisu's jaw hardens. He is the most anal about Hokage respecting procedures, so when Sasuke calls Sixth Hokage Kakashi, without any honourifics, it is only the reassuring smile of their leader that prevents the fight.
Shikamaru watches the way Kakashi looks amused at Sasuke, same fond smile directed at Sasuke present when he squeezes Sakura’s shoulder. She was visibly shaken when Sasuke called her useless.
Shikamaru always knew that Kakashi is probably the only person smarter than him in the village, so he isn’t surprised to read in the smug face of their new leader, that he knows what the fuck is wrong with Sasuke.
Naruto is the constant pressure on Sasuke’s temper, that’s nothing new. Only as Sasuke’s anger narrows down, and he starts acting somewhat civic with almost everyone, more like he forgets everyone else exist, Naruto seems to be getting in the focus that Sasuke zooms in. With his weird anger issue.
Shikamaru considers the simple need of Sasuke to have a person he must want to murder. Itachi was there to fill that role and was absently saving the entire village by it, through the tender years that Shikamaru needed to grow up.
And then, it clicks.
“What in the world are you wearing?” - Ino asks in the most obnoxious way possible, each word highlighted by incredulous pause, so they all turn to look at what Naruto is wearing.
“It was a present from Sakura-chan on my sixteenth birthday,” - Naruto smiles happily, sitting down.
Shikamaru remembers that weird period of time when Ino and Sakura were learning the neurosurgery. Tsunade has suggested both of them took on some skills to better the motility of their hands and fingers. Ino took piano, and Shikamaru knew that world won so much from Ino deciding to be a ninja, and not any type of artist. Sakura has knitted all of them something to wear. Not that anyone except her own teammates did. Shikamaru is sure that Sai was threatened to be wearing that hideous scarf, but Kakashi and Naruto seemed to genuinely enjoy their presents.
It doesn’t even take two seconds for Naruto to fidget and drop half the spices. Sasuke takes Naruto by the belt of his pants (Shikamaru notes the careful way Sasuke's fingers push the loose threads of the sweater upward, all done ninja quick) and throws him through the walls. Naruto stops flying only across the street.
“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!” - Naruto’s chakra fires like he still has the Nine-Tails inside.
“You’ve gotten a sauce on me.”
Shikamaru sees approximately three drops of tartar on Sasuke’s hands.
“Hey, Naruto,” - he asks after the leave the place (they let them stay because Sasuke tipped them the double price of the place). - “What happened that day when Sasuke broke your backbone?”
The official medical report said that Uchiha heir induced his hands with the chakra, inserted them in the back of Naruto, gotten a hold on the lumbar region and pulled it out.
If it weren’t for the freaky Uzumaki genes, Tsunade would have at last received the reason to kick Sasuke out of the village, and purify it from the Uchihas (the dream all Senjus after Second Hokage have had). She even looked disappointed when Naruto healed easily. Shikamaru thinks that if it wasn’t Sakura who healed Naruto, Tsunade would have murdered Naruto just to prove that the last Uchiha is still unstable killer. But Fifth was too fond of her apprentice, and would never insinuate that her dotted student would have an imperfect score.
“NOTHING! It was him who threw a pillow at me, he started the fight!”
Okay, Shikamaru will get nothing asking like this.
“What happened before that?”
“Nothing! I wasn’t even talking to him, I was talking with Sakura-chan and he just!-“ - Naruto gets distracted. He gets his dumbest face on.
“Oh yeah, and you know what Shikamaru?”
Shikamaru can guess. It is Naruto’s ~girls~ face, so he awaits some juicy gossip, but when Naruto says:
“Sakura-chan and I have kissed,” - Shikamaru doesn’t need any more explanations. Naruto fills him in on the exact moment that he learnt of it and Shikamaru finally gets it.
Sai still gets confused by the information he gets about the social interactions. Everyone in the village knew what he meant when he called Sakura his girl friend. The voices, unfortunately for Sai, don’t have the sound for the white space between the words.
He, Shino and Sakura are considered smartest of their class so Kakashi got them working on the structure planning of rebuilding the village after war. The three of them worked a lot together.
(Now that Shikamaru thinks of it, Sasuke was better than all three of them. It is quite ironic that the smartest person of their class was in that time in the jail. Something his mother with her hollers of importance of education had to reconsider - Sasuke’s grades were unparalleled back in the academy.)
Rock Lee and Naruto are Rock Lee and Naruto. And they two all but established the Haruno fanclub.
Shikamaru saw the peers his age, and then got confused with Kakashi. He now realises his mistake. They aren’t all connected by the age. They are all connected by their closeness to Sakura…
“Are you jealous of me and Sakura?” - the dumb idiot asks.
Sasuke resolutely doesn’t mind him and continues with his practice.
But it is truly amazing how Naruto can annoy him with just fact of his presence and one idiotic phrase. Sasuke has to breathe deeper to stop himself from launching on him. It would feel so good to just pound his fists in that moronic face.
Sasuke tries to imagine punching Naruto over and over again, but his words go inside Sasuke and torment him.
Naruto has been placed on this Earth specifically to get under Sasuke’s skin.
What is he asking?
Is it the confirmation Sasuke tried to receive before?
Is he asking because he is worried Sasuke is going to be third-wheeling them?
Sasuke punches the tree with the fire fist and it screams with the lightning.
He needs to have a better control over his fire and lightning releases.
Sasuke will leave and soon, his reparations to Konoha almost over, the village’s destructions almost all repaired, there wasn’t much Sasuke to do to atone for his sins.
Sasuke tells himself that it is in no way fuelled by his fear of seeing two of his teammates kissing.
If there is anything Sasuke knows after those torturous weeks of him being back, is that he is too unhinged not to murder Naruto for something like that.
“Treat her good,” - he says at the end. Or else probably doesn’t need to be said. For me seems like the most selfish thing Sasuke can say.
Naruto actually falls from the wooden post he perched himself at.
“Hold on, hold on, hold on, what? Do you- How- Why-“
Sasuke doesn’t bother trying to understand him. He keeps going with the fire fists. The damned lightning won’t stop releasing.
“She confessed to you! She confessed to you right here!”
That stops Sasuke. He turns to look at Naruto. He points to the place where Sakura has fallen down at, when he got her caught in the genjutsu. He killed her in that genjutsu.
A little trace of lightning goes over his scalp, electrocuting his hair up.
He really should work on the lightning release. With one hand gone, there was a lot for him to relearn.
How will he ever atone for that?
He looks deep into Naruto’s eyes.
“Kakashi said I shouldn’t wonder about her reasons for love to me. No one need the reason to love, only reason to hate. Sakura has no reason to hate you,” - or anyone else in the village. All people in the village have surely given her much less reasons to hate them than Sasuke has.
Kakashi’s words were still hard for Sasuke to understand. Was it how love worked for everyone else?
Sasuke could never feel the love of such kind. He didn’t have that much love inside him. It was a singular simple oriented thing.
“Dattebayo! She loves you, don’t you get it?”
Same way she loves each person in the world who hasn’t given her the reason to hate them. Yes, Sasuke got it.
“She loves you, too,” - Sasuke says, daring Naruto to contradict him. Naruto was the one who was near to her, closest of all.
And this is why it is the type of love that Sasuke can’t get. Because Naruto says yes (but! But!…), and Sasuke can’t get it. If anyone asked him whom he loved, he would have struggled trying to understand what the feeling that connected him to Naruto or Kakashi was. They were precious to him, their death would cause him pain. But it was only Sakura that he loved.
Sakura kissed Naruto. The thought always a torture. She made her choice.
And then Naruto groans and says: “It shouldn’t be me explaining this to you. Sasuke, please, not this,” - and Sasuke remembers that he loves her, has loved her for as long as Sasuke remembers all three of them.
When he passes by the cafe, he sees Kakashi and Sakura eating together. He’s seen them together so often. Of course, Sakura was named his right hand and helped him with his Hokage work.
The beastly rage he gets when he thinks of it is hardly explained by the reason Sasuke gives himself. He tells that he is annoyed that Fifth and Sixth Hokages are overworking her. She could never properly take care of herself, always trying to please others. She’s just too good.
Kakashi touches her shoulder and Sasuke all but explodes with the surge of the lighting inside him.
He wants to rip Kakashi’s hand off. So Sasuke decides that there is another road to the Hyuga house, so he turns and goes another way.
But it’s too late.
Kakashi draws Sakura’s attention on him, and she waves him. Sasuke keeps going, soon leaving her behind him. Sasuke is quite proud of that particular power that he hasn’t lost, like he’s lost his control over lighting release - his will to tear his eyes away from her. It feels good to concentrate so much and to learn that he can establish control over himself.
His legs stutter and he hates them for it. She is not making him weak. He could forgive her for that, he thinks. He would forgive her, only her, for that. Only she isn’t making him weak. She is his weakness. The whole person taking a form of his destined demise.
“Sakura,” - he hates how he is unable not to acknowledge her. Hates something even deeper - hates how he knows her voice so well, he would never need to relearn it, no matter how many years passed. He hates how he thinks of her emotions, that she could take it as offence if he hadn’t greeted her back, that it might have annoyed her, hates how he can’t not think about smallest ways he can pleasure her, how he hates even in smallest ways to bring her displeasure.
“Where are you going?” - she asks brightly.
Sasuke hates that Kakashi always gets her in such good mood.
She only needs a reason to hate. She doesn’t have the reason to hate their teacher.
Another thing she is forever exempt from - he always feels almost obligated to give her everything she wishes to ask of him. Such obligation he never felt towards anyone except for the dead people of his clan.
It is hard for Sasuke, he doesn’t know exactly why, one of the gazillion of things that changed about him in the aftermath of the massacre, to talk. It was hard to even think about forming the words, noting the expression of another person to his words, about saying what is needed to be said in the context. It was hard to even move his mouth, it felt like. And it always drained him, especially the emotionally charged types of conversations. His emotions were too unhinged to get him going through the conversation.
(To be fair, there were great many things that were hard for him after massacre. His knees refused to accept the blood and were cold and unwilling to move, his fingers were shaking so much, it seemed they were disconnected from his palms, his chakra went loose out of control, such emotions as anger or sadness were overwhelming, while his capacity for joy or humour or happiness went numb. He overcame all those hardships that were necessary for him to achieve his goal - he steadied his legs and stopped his fingers from shaking, got his chakra and those emotions that needed it, under control. Other changes he simply dismissed - his sleep cycle was still damaged not only by the nightmares, but by his weakened bladder. It was never as important.)
Only with Sakura it was different. Talking with Sakura… It was just as hard to be pushing the sounds out as it was with anyone. But. Firstly, he felt obligated for her to understand everything fully, he thought she deserved that. Secondly, the knocking relief of talking to her had him almost addicted.
He remembered that she was the first person, and the only, whom he told of his revenge, of his further plan, years and years ago.
What he felt then?
He wanted to tell her that he understood her desire to take the test a bit later. He wanted to explain to her why it was impossible for him to make the same choice. But mostly, he unleashed everything that was boiling within him, gave her more information than she asked for. And then, he felt satisfied about at last putting all his desires to voice.
So he answers now. Even if it takes him some time to decide to do it, to gather the strength for it.
“Rinnengan is hard to have. There are no known techniques, and no teachers to teach me. It is easier for me because of the sharingan. To control it, but also, to experiment to learn the extent of it’s powers. I figured that Hyuga clan might have had some suggestions as to what I could try to do with it, basing on what byakugan could do. Hiashi got me some scrolls and I studied them, but it is hard to understand byakugan without having it. So now I go there and train, try to do the same things they do with byakugan through rinnengan.”
“Does it work?” - her voice and face covered in her mask of polite interest. There is something else she wants to ask of him, it is clear to Sasuke because of the cold tension of her facial muscles.
“Some. Never quite exactly, but a lot of powers of byakugan overlap with the rinnengan,” - he would explain in detail it to her, he is sure that her great mind would enjoy solving the mystery of rinnengan and would achieve a lot more than Sasuke’s, but he figures he should give Sakura the pause to get to the question she needs to ask.
She kicks the pebble from the side of his road.
Attentive. Strong. Capable. Beautiful.
He leaves her tomorrow, right now the last time he sees her before the journey.
Her pink hair touch her cheek with the breeze. It is wrong to be so envious of both - her hair and her face.
The itch in his fingers to touch her hair is harder to overcome than the shaking he’s had in childhood, but he does it.
“Who teaches you?” - she asks at last.
Sasuke wonders about the question, but he doesn’t understand what Sakura wants to learn through it. Still, he answers.
Sakura smiles, a bit tensely. He thinks she expected the answer.
“Why not Neji?” - still she asks.
Sasuke thinks about it. He never wondered why it wasn’t Neji. He barely knows Neji. The only time he learned of the man was on Chuunin exams, and soon later Sasuke left the village. He figured Hiashi thought Hinata was the most obvious choice, as they were classmates. When he awakened sharingan, plenty of teachers made him spar her, the obvious choice if not in power, then in genome.
“He is busier.”
And Sakura’s face visibly darkens. Sasuke notes how her mouth twists in the frown, the breath leaves her in one short punch, she averts her eyes from him, but he sees them. They are mean and angry.
And he loves her for her goodness, loves for the self-sacrifice she carries inside her, admires how easy it is for her to save others, admires the number of people she’s saved.
But he strives on this darkness inside her eyes. He loathes himself for enjoying it, it is yet another proof of how no-good he is for her, how he dirties her with his dark nature. Because Sakura’s face is mirror reflecting his own.
She is jealous.
“Hinata is in love with Naruto,” - he says, never dropping his gaze from her face. Her face clears and surprise makes way on it.
“Huh? Yeah, I know,” - she shrugs.
He fights his smile best he can, but his lips still tense.
“Sakura,” - he says to her, picking up pace, - “I’ll walk the rest alone.”
He hears her (mostly) inward groan as she stops, and feels her eyes on him.
Sasuke thinks that Sakura doesn’t have the reason to hate Hinata.