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The value of learning to bloom by yourself

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The bored look on the dark-haired man’s face made her want to scream, but she managed to hold herself back.


“No, Sasuke, I don’t think that would be a wise course of action.”


It wasn’t the answer he’d expected. She could tell when he blinked in surprise, the facade slipping for a split second.


“And why is that, Sakura?”


She straightened the spine that Tsunade-sensei had helped her grow and she turned to look him in the eye.


“Why do you think it’s a good idea, Sasuke? If you can give me a good reason, I’ll consider it.”


That response gave him pause, and his brow furrowed as he started to sort through whatever reasons he had.


“You’d be a good mother. You know me. You – why are you shaking your head?”


The mild frustration coloring his tone meant that he was genuinely confused.


“Sasuke, you want a homemaker who will take care of your children and help you rebuild your clan. I’m an active duty shinobi and one of the hospital administrators – I don’t have time to devote myself to a family, especially not one as large as you’re planning on.” She chewed her bottom lip before she continued. “I know the reason you came to me is because I’m familiar. You’ve never been the most social person, even before you betrayed the village for that snake and your revenge.”


Her words were blunt and flat, and she watched his eyes narrow and shift to an eerily familiar red. She continued anyways.


“Sasuke, when we were children, things were different, but even then you never wanted me. You tolerated me. Barely, because we were teammates. But those days are over – and if I’m honest about things, you not wanting me was the beginning of me wanting myself. I pushed myself to get better, and at first it was to catch up to you, and to Naruto. I hated being left behind, hated always watching your backs as you got further and further away. But then…” Her gaze trailed away as he watched dispassionately. “But then it was about getting better for my own sake. To be strong for myself and my village. For my friends and the people I care about. And I refuse to give that up and resign myself to a life that’s expected of me by someone who has never really respected me, even while he’s asking me to marry him.”


He opened his mouth to protest, but she could tell it was automatic. He didn’t mean it. She cut him off.


“You can’t honestly stand there and tell me, to my face, that you ever thought I was worth your time. You’ve never watched me the way you did Naruto.”


Her eyes narrowed at the same time his did, and it left him feeling conflicted. Disputing her would be a lie, but it was one he thought would get him what he wanted, so he opened his mouth to argue. A senbon needle whizzed past his left ear, nearly giving him an unplanned piercing in the process, and his mouth snapped shut as his body dropped automatically into a defensive stance. Sakura remained where she was, her arms crossed nonchalantly, as though she hadn’t just left a shallow slice across his cheekbone.


“Don’t argue. You won’t win. All you’ll do is lie and make me angrier than I already am, and let me tell you, I’m absolutely pissed that you even thought this was okay. Did it not occur to you that I am working? I don’t have time to listen to you stand there and lie through your teeth trying to get me to agree to your stupid proposal.”


He was still standing defensively, eyeing her more speculatively than before. He didn’t have more than the basic level of Sharingan activated when she’d thrown the needle, but he didn’t see her do it . She was fast. When had she gotten fast? He remembered her lagging behind during their genin days, her stamina abysmal and he noticed with a start that her arms were muscled, biceps bulging slightly with her arms folded as they were. He wagered that if he glanced down, her legs wouldn’t be much different.


His thoughts left him dangling on the precipice of realization that she had changed in the years he’d been absent. She rolled her eyes, turning back to her desk to start sorting through patient charts and administrative requests, dismissing him with her actions.


It stung his pride, and his eye twitched as he considered the best way to regain her attention. More than ever, he believed that she should belong to him, bear his children, help him rebuild his clan. She’d gotten strong and any children she had with him would be strong, as well. He measured his words carefully, drawing himself from an openly defensive position to a guarded one, more casual, but tensed for action.


“... I’m willing to go through the dating phase before marriage, if that’s what’s holding you back. I understand that girls prefer the romance of it.”


He felt hard pressed not to grimace, especially when she didn’t even bother glancing back at him.


“I’m not sure how much clearer I can make this to you, Sasuke. I said no, and I meant it. It doesn’t mean “convince me.” It doesn’t mean “try again later.” It means no.” Here she looked up, pinning him with a glare that looked like it belonged there, like it fit, but was a look he had never seen aimed at him before. He felt a prickling over the surface of his skin and belatedly remembered that his former teammate was originally a genjutsu type. He wondered if the uncomfortable sensation was a genjutsu meant to unnerve and he increased the chakra powering his Sharingan to the next level.


He was disconcerted to find that it was, in fact, just from the cold glare. He glared back. Why couldn’t she just do as she was told?


A brief knock against the door drew her attention, and she deliberately turned her back to him as a sweet-faced nurse poked her head in. His fingers twitched towards his kunai pouch in his irritation at being ignored.


“Haruno-sensei, I have the updated charts from the last rounds for this shift – and Shizune-sensei asked me to let you know to expect a team this evening who may need surgery.”


Sakura took the charts the young nurse offered her, flipping through them casually as the nurse debriefed with starry eyes that never strayed from the pink haired medic. Sasuke’s brow furrowed slightly in consternation. This was the second time she’d dismissed him in as many minutes, and he couldn’t say he enjoyed it.


“Thank you for your hard work, Yuna-san. I’ll take a look at these and keep an eye out for incoming surgeries, but you’re free to head on home, I’m sure you’ve got plans for the evening.”


The warmth in her voice told him she was probably smiling, especially when the nurse responded with a beaming grin.


“Yeah! Me and a few of the other nurses were going to grab an early dinner and maybe find a salon that’s open late.”


The head medic chuckled quietly, flapping the stack of charts at her subordinate.


“Then you’d better get going! Don’t leave the rest of them waiting – I’ll see you back here Tuesday afternoon.”


The nurse happily nodded, shutting the door and hurrying down the hall, presumably to meet her coworkers.


Sakura turned around, not sparing him a glance as she looked through the charts in her arms with greater focus.




“Why are you still here? Didn’t I say I had work to do? Show yourself out. I don’t have time for you, especially since you aren’t here with a medical concern.” She paused, glancing up again with a raised eyebrow. “... Not that that would change things. I’m not your physician. You’d have to see Tsunade-shishou for anything pressing. She’s the one who assigned your physician.” Shrugging carelessly, she moved behind her desk to begin going through the newly acquired paperwork in earnest. “I have no idea who, I just know it isn’t me.”


He didn’t move from where he stood.


“... I thought that the medical ninja assigned to the same team saw to their teammates’ medical issues. That would be you.”


She pinned him with a dark look.


“Oh? But don’t you remember, Sasuke-kun? Team Seven was disbanded when you fucked off to be Orochimaru’s plaything. The only active team I’m on is Team Kakashi, which you most certainly are not a part of. I personally see to the health of Kakashi-sensei, Naruto, even Sai. But not you.” His lips thinned as she continued to speak. “Tsunade-shishou didn’t even bother asking if I would. She guessed what my answer would be. Now, I recommend, for your health,” her voice was saccharine sweet and he could almost taste the poison dripping from her words. “That you remove yourself from my office. Before I fling you out the window, preferably.”


He scoffed automatically at the idea that she could manage even that, and in his carelessness, glanced at the window a few feet to his left. In the space of less than a blink, she was across the room and her fingers curled into the fabric of his shirt, seams straining as she spun in a tight circle, bodily pulling him off his feet and throwing him through, not the window, but the wall of her office, stone and mortar crumbling from the force she put behind it.


He landed with only a crater in the hard-packed earth to cradle him, and shifted with a wince. Probably a few cracked ribs. A shadow fell over him and he looked up to meet the unimpressed eyes of the younger Nara.


“Most people aren’t stupid enough to get on Sakura’s nerves. Guess you’re one of the unlucky few.” Clever eyes traveled down the length of his body before returning to his face. A brow quirked. “Maybe next time she tells you she’s not interested in empty platitudes and relationships, you’ll listen. In the meantime, I’m late for lunch and damage control.”


Sasuke belatedly registered the smell of umeboshi from the bag in Shikamaru’s arms, and his eyes swung back up to the newly renovated hospital wall, watching the shadow-user hop up to the roof of a nearby building to assist in reaching the hole faster. Narrowing his gaze, he watched as Sakura greeted him and took the bag from his arms, digging through it while Shikamaru watched her fondly. The woman was cheerfully munching on a rice ball, looking for all the world like she hadn’t suplexed a former teammate through the side of a building, and Sasuke felt something in him die when Shikamaru ducked down to buss a casual kiss against Sakura’s cheek. Even from where he’d landed, he saw how she leaned into the other man with an ease that spoke of comfort and shared history.


He sighed deeply through his nose, pushing himself painfully to his feet and beginning the trek back to the hospital, intent on finding the former Hokage to fix his ribs (which were definitely cracked) and hopefully avoid being blamed for breaking the building.