Sakura had a slight feeling- no, she was pretty sure everyone else knew something that she didn’t.
At first she ignored the obvious signs, chalking it up to her imagination. But soon, she was certain everyone was acting weird.
Ino kept elbowing her and giving her saucy winks and giggling behind her hand. Kiba kept shooting her devious grins and wished her an ‘interesting night’. Tenten avoided her eyes and questions, smiling secretively. Naruto and Sasuke were nowhere to be found.
Honestly, she’s had it up to here with their cryptic nonsense. She got enough of that from Sasuke, Kakashi and Neji and that was already too much.
Speaking of a cryptic Kakashi, earlier while she was being annoyed by Tenten’s refusal on explaining her downright confusing behaviour he appeared suddenly. He pressed a copy of his favourite series into her hands, saying that it might be useful later on.
She considered burning it, but on a probably stupid whim, she kept it and tucked it into her basket. She had rose this morning with the idea of bullying her teammates in enjoying the day with her on a picnic, but Kakashi rattled off a nonsensical excuse and disappeared, which left Naruto and Sasuke, who were MIA.
The basket was heavy with food. She had been extra careful in preparing this food, so it was neither burnt or tasteless. The least her teammates could do was appreciate her efforts and eat it. But they were missing. And no one would tell her anything.
In hindsight, she probably should’ve stayed in bed, or at least downed another cup of coffee.
She was passing through the streets when she spotted Neji.
“Hey, Neji-san!” She yelled, waving her free hand.
At the sound of her voice, he turned and waited until she stumbled up to him.
“Ah, Sakura-san. I was looking for you.”
“Really?” She smiled. Here was a person without any silliness in him, he would surely tell her if he had seen her bonehead teammates.
“Yes, I was given something to deliver to you.”
While he searched in the pouch by his side, Sakura posed her question. “You haven’t by chance seen Naruto or Sasuke today, have you?” She inquired hopefully.
Neji was silent as he pulled out a small slip of paper and handed it to her. She took it, albeit confusedly.
“This will help you.” And he turned and strode down the street, quickly and gracefully. The pinkette glared at the brunette’s back. He had given her an answer, but not the one she wanted. At least he didn’t giggle.
Curiosity won over and she carefully placed her picnic basket down and opened the small piece of paper.
In neat handwriting that looks suspiciously like Shikamaru’s, the note said:
‘I take life, I give life, I house life.’
Pink eyebrows rose in disbelief. A riddle. A riddle! A riddle?
She should’ve definitely stayed in bed. Today was getting ridiculous. A picnic while watching the sun set was becoming to look like an impossibility. She rolled her eyes. Oh what the hell. She apparently didn’t have anything better to do anyway.
Time to put her big brain to work. Three possibilities sprung to mind immediately. The perks of being smart.
One, was a god. But do gods house life? Plus there weren’t any statues or temples in Konoha. Nothing to represent a god. Strike.
The second possibility a hospital, where babies were born and people died. Some people had to stay there too. But hospitals didn’t ‘give’ or ‘take’ lives. Just saved them or failed to save them. Strike. Which striked out medics as well. The terms didn’t apply. They helped life into the world, and yes sometimes they had to take people off life support machines, but they didn’t house life.
The last option looked at it a little less obviously. What was life? What gave life? Could be chakra, but chakra was too broad a subject, and she would never figure out where the next clue was. Every living thing had chakra. What was she gonna do? Check every person and tree?
The answer hit her then. Of course, a tree. A tree took in water, which was important for life, and it gave off oxygen, which also was important for life, and it was a habitat for wildlife.
It took life to sustain itself, then gave off life as a bi-product, and it housed many creatures.
But which tree? Konoha was quite literally in a forest. It must be their favourite tree. The big cherry blossom at the top of the small hill behind their training grounds. Where they relaxed after sparring. Where she had planned to have her picnic.
When she was there, Sakura walked the distance around the trunk, then looked up in its branches. Her eyes narrowed when she saw Shino there, watching her. They had obviously chosen the ones who could keep secrets to dole out the riddles.
He hopped down and handed the paper he held, before leaving with a quiet ‘good luck’. She thanked him. It wasn’t his fault the rest of team seven were infuriating. She could still be polite.
She was gonna break their little necks when she got to them.
She opened the riddle with more haste.
Chouji’s writing. It smelt like potato chips.
‘What makes stressed turn back?’
Sakura’s clear green eyes narrowed. The sentence was confusing, but the bad grammar must’ve been intentional.
What got rid of stress?
Sakura’s answer was work until her mind comes off the problem, but that was most likely not the answer. Ino was sort of typical. What did she do?
Rant, eat sweets, complain, then go solve the problem by force.
Sweets. Stressed turn back. Oh, stressed backwards was desserts.
Sakura giggled. This was easy.
Many places sold sweets, but only one shop held the word ‘desserts’ in their name. Sakura skipped all the way there, glad to be making some progress. Shikamaru was there, looking bored out of his mind. She patted him on the back while he slunk off. This process repeated. She solved the riddle, she met someone and received the next.
Naruto’s handwriting was on the paper the lazy genius handed her. It wasn’t even a riddle. ‘This place sells the r- food EVER!’Answer, Ichiraku. The riddles kept getting easier and easier from there.
Hinata. Ino’s handwriting. ‘My pollen brings all the bees to the yard.’ Answer,Flowers: Yamanaka shop. Hinata ran off giggling with a smirking Kiba before she had a chance to interrogate her.
Ino. Hinata’s handwriting. ‘Toughest material on earth, but pretty enough to melt hearts. Outshines the stars, reflects love.’ Answer: Diamonds: Jewelry shops. Ino handed her a bouquet with a small smile.
Sakura clutched the red tipped yellow roses, orange roses, honeysuckle, daises and daffodils to her chest.
Friendship turned to love, passionate enthusiasm, bonds of love, hope, new beginning.
Her heart sped up along with her pace.
Tsunade of all people, stood at the entrance of the jewelry shop. She handed her student a brown paper bag with instructions not to open until she was at home. Sakura placed the bouquet and the bag carefully in her picnic basket. All Tsunade said was ‘I approve’ before handing Sakura her riddle.
Sasuke’s handwriting. ‘Here, gratitude I gave, mistakes were made.’ Answer: The bench he left her unconscious on. Her heart skipped. She could tell this little hunt was drawing to a close.
On that cold unforgiving bench, sat her masked former (but forever, in her heart) sensei. His smile was visible underneath his mask even as the day came to a close and the sun retreated, giving way to a midnight blue sky.
He clasped her free hand with his larger ones and neatly slipped the paper he held into it.
“I’m happy for you.” He said, and then he was gone. Leaving her with her heart hesitant but hoping against hope. She glanced at the flowers once more, reminded herself of their symbolism and smoothed out the paper Kakashi gave her..
‘Come home, Sakura.’ was written. Her hands shook as she dropped the paper in her basket and followed the route she knew so well she could follow it blindfolded. The streets that were full of her friends were only occupied by civilians who paid her no mind except to greet her or glance curiously at the flowers in the basket.
What was only under two minutes felt like hours until she arrived at her apartment.
She moved away from her parents’ house to here, where everything was purely her. Her green bedspread, white furniture, bright red rug, secondhand couch that used to be white, her mahogany desk, her bookshelf and her endless pile of scrolls and books.
Until it wasn’t just her. Their invading was subtle, Naruto left a bloodied shirt that she washed and he never retrieved it, Sasuke brought lunch over and left his plate there. Then they started to crash on her couch, or on her bed when she was away on missions. And then suddenly she found herself picking up cup ramen at the store and polishing Sasuke’s kunai in her spare time.
It wasn’t just green, white and red anymore. Suddenly there was black, orange, navy blue, crimson and a myriad of colours that made up them. And she knew that if any attempts to separate these colours were made scars would be left behind.
Her hand hovered over her doorknob. She could turn around and stay at Ino’s, she’d understand. They’d all understand. But that would erect a wall she would lament over all her life there would be what ifs that would eat her from the inside out until she was as hollow as a dead tree.
The cold metal sent shocks down her arm when her palm closed around it. She took a deep breath and opened the door.
Inside was dark, but she didn’t flick on the lights. She knew this small space inside out. She headed straight to her bedroom without even putting down the basket. Just as her fingers were about to touch the brass metal of the doorknob, she caught her reflection in a full length mirror even in the dark of the room. Her eyes trailed from her open toed sandals up to her almost knee length blue-green sundress to her simple silver necklace up to her face.
Her face which was only graced by lipgloss but held so much hope and fear and hesitance and anticipation and love.
She turned away before she started wasting time staring at someone she saw everyday but looked so different with that emotion reflected on her face from her heart.
She could sense them and they could sense her, hesitating. She had better go in before they start worrying and doubting themselves.
She closed her eyes, and opened the door.
Their scent accompanied their chakra signatures. She breathed the air in deeply and adrenaline replaced her blood.
Her eyes fluttered before she opened them fully and she drank in the sight before her.
Sasuke, pale and cool and perfect like the moon.
Naruto, sun-kissed and warm and vibrant like the summer’s sun.
Sat on her green bedspread with their fingers intertwined.
And their other hands reached out towards her.
She didn’t move backward, and she didn’t move forward.
She froze, unsure, as the moon and the sun looked at her as if she was their world.
Sasuke looked indifferent, except his eyes followed her every move, took in every detail. Naruto’s smile held confidence but he unconsciously bit his lip and his hand tightened around Sasuke’s for comfort.
They were just as nervous as she was. She let out a breathy laugh that sounded more like a puff of breath.
Tears slipped down her face and before the first drop dripped off her chin, they were there by her side. Sasuke took the basket and set it down. He took up the bouquet and passed the paper bag to Naruto. Sakura watched them without a word.
Naruto almost tore open the bag and took out a small velvet box. Her heart stopped.
Sasuke plucked a cherry blossom flower that she didn’t notice from the assortment of flowers and tucked it behind her ear. His fingers lingered as they combed through her hair.
Naruto carefully opened the box, and in it was a delicate silver ring with three gemstones; emerald, sapphire, onyx. To remind her of their eyes.
The necklace around her neck was removed, and the ring was slipped down the chain.
A question was in their eyes as Naruto held it around her neck, hesitating to clasp it.
Sakura laughed again, this time hearty and loud. She wrapped her arms around their torsos and crushed them to her in an almost rib cracking hug. She was dimly aware of the necklace being clasped and being carried to her bed.
They laid there laughing, fingers intertwined, stealing kisses and hugging. Them three. As it was meant to be.