Chapter Thirty_
"Nerve" :

"Alright, you have your assignments," said Sakura as she wiped down the dry erase board.
Turning back to the class with a wide grin, she grabbed her large bag of chocolates from behind her desk.
"I know its tradition to only give to guys, but, well, think of it as more of a congratulations. You've all done so well, I couldn't be prouder. Happy Valentine's Day."
Her students started gathering there things before coming up to get the small box of chocolate she'd gotten for each of them with a smile and a bashful thanks. She had debated on it for a while, but she really was proud of them and felt they deserved something. Plus, she was making her final cuts at the end of the month. They were going to be ecstatic to find there weren't actually going to be anymore. They'd really exceeded her expectations.
Giving the classroom one more look to make sure nothing had been left out, Sakura flicked off the light and headed into the cool night. As she headed towards Sasuke's office, her mind kept wandering to the bag in her hands.
She had made dinner for Sasuke and herself—as she did regularly—so she could help him get done with his paperwork early enough to actually get some sleep. What was bothering her, however, wasn't the dinner. It was the small box of chocolates she picked up for Sasuke.
She knew he didn't like sweets and she'd probably end up eating them (not that she was complaining), but she thought it was only right. She considered him a good friend after all. If she were in Konoha she'd be giving Naruto a box, as well as Kakashi-sensei.
This felt different, though. She wasn't sure if she was starting to imagine things—and most times told herself she was—but for awhile now there was something about the way she interacted with Sasuke, something that didn't resemble her normal behavior around friends.
She worried over her appearance—something she hadn't done since she was twelve and extremely annoyed to being thinking about now. She found herself wondering if Sasuke was ever bored of her pointless chatter or annoyed with her company. Most of all, though, she found herself flirting with Sasuke.
Unintentionally and very mildly, but she would catch herself teasing him about things and reacting certain ways. Sometimes she thought he was flirting back.
She convinced herself she was being delusional.
So giving him chocolate, no matter if she presented it as a friend, was heartbreaking because that wasn't her true feelings at all.
But Sasuke couldn't know. She couldn't bear the idea of being rejected again. Scarier still, and no matter how unlikely, she couldn't bear the idea of his acceptance only to have to leave him in a few months.
Sighing to herself as she entered the building Sasuke worked at, Sakura realized she was being foolish to worry over this. When it came down to it, she really didn't have an option in the matter.
Any relationship she may want with Sasuke wasn't going to happen no matter which way she spun it. Their fate was already decided and though their paths may have crossed now, they were ultimately heading in two completely different directions.
Walking towards his office, Sakura frowned when she passed two women giggling to themselves with red faces. Curiously, she entered Sasuke's office.
His eyes snapped up in a glare. It disappeared the moment he identified her.
Sakura was about to ask about his obviously sour mood until she saw the pile of wrapped boxes beside his desk. All chocolate, she presumed. She couldn't help but laugh. Poor Sasuke was just too popular for his own sanity.
She ignored the increase in her heart rate. Would he lump her together with the mass of infatuated woman because she got him some chocolate too? Still, she decided she would give it to him.
As a friend.
Yes, they were friends. It was only proper.
"So, I guess this would be under your list of most despised days?" she said conversationally before taking her usual spot across his desk.
"What gave it away?" grumbled Sasuke.
Sakura laughed through her nerves as she reached into her bag.
"Oh, you know, you just look like you want to maim someone," she said with a cheeky grin.
He scoffed.
"Anyways, I didn't wrap mine so I feel a little original I suppose," she said as if it was no big deal that she got him chocolate and added her little box to the pile.
If she hadn't been so nervous and avoided looking at him, she would've seen the peculiar way his eyes stayed on her gift.
But she was and quickly changed the subject as her heart rate slowed back to a normal pace. She was happy to note the ease in which they fell into their little routine of teasing and working.
It was an hour or so before they decided to take a break and eat. Sakura tried to convince Sasuke to open some of the chocolates to which he gave a tired sigh and told her she could, but he didn't really give a damn.
After scolding him for being so careless with a girl's feelings—and ignoring the pang that she may have been implying something she didn't mean to—Sakura picked the box she thought was wrapped the nicest.
"Dear Sasuke-kun," she read aloud. Sasuke looked at her with a quirked eyebrow, "I hope you accept my feelings for you on this beautiful holiday. I have been in awe of you since you first came to Oto and my admiration and love has not ceased to grow. You are an inspirational leader and a wonderful person. I wish I could tell you me feelings in person, but I simply can't. I love you, Sasuke."
Sakura blinked a few times before looking up at Sasuke.
"Well, if you ever need someone to talk you up, this is definitely your girl."
"Hn."
"Seriously, though," said Sakura with an amused grin, "this may just be your future wife."
"Annoying."
Sakura couldn't help but laugh and pick another box. A dozen sappy and a few creepy letters later and Sakura could see why Sasuke was so annoyed. Obviously none of these women actually knew Sasuke. One of them had called him kind for crying out loud. He was even been compared to something akin to Prince Charming. Ha!
Still, they gave some pretty high end chocolate. Sakura felt a little bad about eating it, but maybe she could at least write thank you notes on Sasuke's behalf or something?
She popped another piece of chocolate in her mouth.
"You know, I really can't believe you don't like sweets," she said.
Sasuke shrugged, "You don't like spicy food."
"True," said Sakura, "but a lot of people don't like spicy food. You're weird."
"Wrong," said Sasuke as his eyes flickered to the stack of love notes. "Apparently I'm the second coming."
"Just when I thought your ego couldn't get any bigger," mumbled Sakura before getting back to her point. "Anyways, all I'm saying is you should at least try a piece of chocolate. I refuse to believe you dislike it as much as you think. It's just not possible."
"No," said Sasuke flatly.
"Aw, come on, Sasuke-kun! You're really missing out on something good."
"I doubt that," said Sasuke as he turned back to his paperwork. "Besides, why does it matter so much?"
"Well, I guess it's not a big deal," said Sakura, "but you should really keep an open mind. Plus, if you do end up not liking it, I get the enjoyment of seeing your face."
"And the truth comes out," said Sasuke, his eyes scanning the form on his desk.
Sakura grinned. "Come on, Sasuke-kun, just one piece! That's it. And if you do I'll, um, oh! I'll make you that chicken dish you like, with tomatoes."
Sakura didn't back down from his calculating stare. After a moment of thought, Sasuke sighed and grumbled, "Deal."
Sakura's smile grew ten fold when Sasuke dropped his pen and turned a disgusted glare to the pile of chocolate boxes. That same smile became strained when he picked up her box. Her heart felt as if it plummeted into her stomach and woke a whole swarm of butterflies.
She forced herself to not appear affected. Sasuke certainly didn't look it. She wondered if he was even aware of the fact that that was her box or if it was simply the one closest.
She watched with the paranoia that he could hear her thudding heartbeat as he popped one of the little morsels into his mouth.
He chewed, glared and then proceeded to swallow it whole.
"Disgusting," he said curtly, turning back to his paperwork without another thought.
Sakura let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding.
"Well," she said, mentally slapping herself for the slight quiver to her voice, "maybe you could freeze the chocolate and then throw it at people?"
"And you called me weird," said Sasuke.
Sakura laughed nervously. "Yeah, yeah. Whatever."
There was a stretch of silence as Sakura went back to working. Absently, she glanced up to see Sasuke staring at her with a curious frown.
"What?" she asked, wondering if she had chocolate on her face. That'd be just great.
"You got quiet," said Sasuke, his version of: are you okay?
"I've been known to do that from time to time," said Sakura, her eyes going back to the paperwork. She really didn't want Sasuke to pry and luckily for her, Sasuke wasn't the type to push matters.
They worked in silence then, not uncomfortable but then again Sakura was distracted by her own thoughts to notice otherwise.
As they were walking home that night, Sasuke said, "Thanks for the disgusting chocolate."
Sakura's eyes were wide as she chanced a glance at the man beside her. His head was tilted just enough to where his bangs hid his eyes.
There it was again—that blasted hope.
"You're welcome," mumbled Sakura—not sure what else to say as one thought ran through her mind.
He had known it was her box.

. . .

Chapter Thirty-One_
"Necklace" :

Sasuke was sitting at the kitchen table staring at a little black box. His brows were drawn together in concentration and contemplation as he went over the pros and cons of actually giving Sakura the contents inside.
Pro, it was White Day so he could give her the gift and manage to play it off as a simple tradition. It was custom for guys to respond to the chocolates. Of course, he wasn't giving anyone else anything, but Sakura wouldn't read too much into that… would she?
Con, he would actually have to give it to her. Damn.
His frown deepened when he thought about the fact that her birthday was this month as well. He could always just wait. It wouldn't be weird for him to give her a gift then, but jewelry? It was a perfectly acceptable return gift for White Day, but what would it say if he gave her jewelry for her birthday...
Oh, how Sasuke hated the social aspect of life. Give him the most complicated S-rank mission there was and he'd figure out how to complete it perfectly, but try and figure out how to give a girl a gift and he was as hopeless as… as Naruto.
Great, now he was annoyed and feeling pathetic. Today was going to suck.
Just then, he heard Sakura's light footsteps on the stairs and quickly put the jewelry box in his pocket. Since when did he get nervous and jumpy? Sakura walked into the kitchen. Oh yeah, when he decided to be a moron and fall in love. (XD)
"Hey, Sasuke-kun," said Sakura, her tired eyes going straight to the pot of coffee. Sasuke was glad she wasn't a morning person. He was sure he wasn't hiding his anxiety well.
Sakura sat across from him and took a sip of her coffee.
"So," she said—was he being paranoid or where things rather awkward, "you sure you're going to be home for dinner. I can always bring something up–"
Sasuke sighed. Sakura had been bugging him to pick at least one day a week to leave that damn office at a reasonable hour and now she was being annoying about the fact that she didn't think he was going to keep his word and therefore miss out on dinner and die of malnutrition.
Frankly, he found it only emphasized his point—she was insane. Why does he love her again?
"Annoying," he breathed. "I'll pick you up after work. How's that?"
Sakura gave him thoughtful look. "Fine. Just know that if you're late, I'm not going to be happy."
"I'm not Kakashi," grumbled Sasuke as he followed Sakura from the kitchen.
"That doesn't mean you haven't been late before," said Sakura with a quick glare.
"I told you," said Sasuke, glaring back, "there was an emergency."
"Of course there was," said Sakura, rolling her eyes.
"Annoying," said Sasuke under his breath.
"What was that?"
"Nothing."
"Right," said Sakura, obviously not buying it. "Anyways, I was thinking, it's been getting warmer we should change up the house."
"What?" said Sasuke, giving the girl a weird look. He would never figure out how her mind worked.
Sakura rolled her eyes in an exasperated fashion.
"We could rearrange the furniture, you know," she said. "Or even paint. Don't you get bored of everything staying the same?"
"No."
"Well I do. Besides, it might be fun."
"Should I even bother arguing?" asked Sasuke, his eyes darting to the training center and his hand clenching around the jewelry box in his pocket.
"You're learning," said Sakura as she turned to face him. "Well, I guess I'll see you tonight."
Sasuke just stared at her. His mind was yelling at him to hand her the box—after all, this gave him the chance to walk away. Unfortunately, his body simply wouldn't move.
Sakura's brow furrowed slightly as she glanced away and then back. Clearing her throat she said, "Well, uh"
Sasuke shoved the box in her hand.
"Here," he said, looking in the other direction, "for White Day. It was my mother's. I had it lying around and thought…"
Sasuke trailed off as his eyes found Sakura. She had opened the box and was currently staring at the necklace inside—her mouth slightly agape and her eyes shocked. He wondered if that was good or bad.
Something must've broken her reverie as she gasped and her head snapped up so her eyes met his.
"It's, um, really," she shook her head, obviously annoyed at her stammering. "Thank you, Sasuke-kun."
"Hn."
Sasuke felt the back his neck heating up at the smile on her lips. It was almost infectious. He was about to say good-bye and walk away—he didn't think he could stand to be in front of her any longer—when there was a soft pressure on his cheek.
He couldn't breathe as his eyes snapped wide. Sakura was clutching the jewelry box, her head down so her bangs hid her eyes.
"I guess I'll see you tonight," she said before slipping inside the training center.
"Aa," said Sasuke when the door clicked closed. His mind a maelstrom of thoughts, but his heart—his heart felt as if it was about to explode.

. . .

Chapter Thirty-two_
"Surprise" :

Sakura let out a heavy sigh as she released the pen in her hand. Regardless of the slight headache she had managed to finish grading the stack of tests before her. She was pleased with the results to say the least.
With a quick glance at the clock, Sakura leaned back in her chair and let her eyes drop closed. She should be halfway to Sasuke's office, but sleep sounded rather nice at that moment. Still, she'd miss the walk home. Sometimes, when she was especially tired, she allowed herself to wonder how they might look to someone else.
Absently, Sakura realized she was fiddling with the necklace he'd given her.
She couldn't help but smile as she looked down at the small pear cut ruby dangling from a small piece of metal cut in the shape of an uchiha fan. Did Sasuke notice the small design? Or was she walking around with his clan symbol around her neck without his knowledge?
She was running her finger along the chain, her chin being propped in her palm as she stared at the wall in deep thought. That was when the door opened and Sasuke walked in.
She looked at him, frowned and then followed his gaze to the necklace she was currently fiddling with. Her cheeks immediately flushed at the memory of him giving it to her. She wasn't sure if she regretted it, but things always got awkward whenever there was even the slightest attention on the little necklace.
Clearing her throat, she let her hand fall to the desk and the accessory fall back in place.
"What are you doing here? Is someone hurt?" she added after realizing it was strange for Sasuke to come there. Hell, he never had before.
Sasuke's eyes slid to hers then—the blush that slowly started to fade came back with a vengeance—as his head gave a quick jerk towards the door.
"Come on."
"Huh?" she said dumbly.
Sasuke smirked before leaving the room. Sakura couldn't help but stick her tongue out at the now empty doorway before following. Stupid, arrogant, and cocky. Yup, Uchiha Sasuke in a nutshell.
Still, she was curious.
She was able to be patient for about ten minutes, but when Sasuke turned down a road she'd never been before, Sakura couldn't help it.
"What's going on, Sasuke-kun?"
"No questions," he said in that commanding voice.
Sakura glared.
"Who died and made you boss?"
Sasuke glanced over at her with a single brow raised and a rather dashing smirk.
"Oh," she said, blinking up at him—those damn lips looked just a bit too inviting. Clearing her throat, she forced her eyes away, "Right."
"Alright, we're here," announced Sasuke after another five minutes.
"Okay," said Sakura, glancing around at the alley. "Are we whacking someone?"
Sasuke just shook his head before flicking his chin towards the door to their right. Sakura glanced at it, her eyes narrowed as she gave Sasuke a curious look. Curiosity got the better of her as she grasped the doorknob and hesitantly opened it.
"SURPRISE!"
Sakura was gaping at the group of people settled in the bar. Her eyes finally settled on her students grinning at the front of the pack.
Kenji gave her a wide toothy grin, "Happy birthday, teach."
"You guys…" said Sakura, tearing up. "Great, now I'm going to cry."
There was some laughter as Sakura got sucked into the crowd. A few of her students introduced her to their parents who thanked her for everything she'd been doing in Oto. Others, people she'd healed during her stay, were there as well. Others still were just people who appreciated her coming to the village.
She couldn't exactly say she was friends with any of these people. She liked them, and they had been kind during her stay, but her time was dictated between teaching, helping Sasuke, and healing those whose injuries were too much for the other medic-nin in the village.
Then they broke out the alcohol.
A few hours later… well, more like two shots and she had lost count of the rum and cokes later, Sakura had lots of friends.
Sakura burst out laughing after a man around her age finished telling a rather interesting story about when him and his buddy decided to go camping. Lets just say things didn't go smoothly.
Taking a sip of her drink, Sakura glanced around to find Sasuke leaning against the far wall, his eyes closed and arms folded across his chest. He looked tired.
Smirking to herself, she slid from the bar stool and left the crowd settled there.
"Sasuke-kun," she purred, as she came to stand before him. His eyes opened slowly, those perfect eyes, as he peered down at her with a raised eyebrow.
"Any alcohol left," he said, smirking at her obviously inebriated state.
Sakura stuck out her tongue.
"Yes, and I'll have you know, I'm not drunk." Sakura giggled to herself. "Well, I'm not shit-faced."
"Yet."
She giggled again before grabbing Sasuke's hands.
"Well, lets fix that. Do some shots with me!"
She didn't give him an option as she dragged him over to the bar. Three tequila shots and she was officially at her limit so she wasn't sure if she imagined Sasuke's deep laugh.
"You're going to hurt in the morning," he said before downing his last shot.
Sakura waved her hand absently. "Probably, but tha'snot the point!"
"Oh?" said Sasuke.
"The point!" she said, slamming her palm onto the table, "is that I feel great right now!"
A cheer echoed through the bar.
"I can see that," said Sasuke with an amused smirk. Sakura couldn't help but stare into his slightly glazed over eyes. She knew he wasn't drunk, but three shots of tequila and he was bound to have a nice buzz.
"S'not fair," she said after a moments pause. Propping her chin in her hand, her eyes fell to the glass in her hand.
"Sakura?" questioned Sasuke, his brows furrowed in concern of her sudden melancholy.
Sakura glanced up at him with a wistful smile.
"It's jus'not fair."
"You feeling alright?" asked Sasuke, leaning closer with that worry still set on his features.
Sakura felt like a weight was placed on her chest at their proximity. Her face was probably a shade darker than her hair. Sucking a deep breath, she whispered, "No. No, I-I think we should go."
Sasuke nodded, still worried, "Alright."
Sakura couldn't find it in herself to look at Sasuke let alone speak to him. Perhaps it was the alcohol making it hard for her to ignore all the feelings and worries that had been eating away at her for the past couple months.
"Sakura?"
There it was again, that pain in her chest. She found her entire body grow stiff at the concern in his voice. She simply couldn't respond as she forced one foot in front of the other.
"Hey," said Sasuke as he grabbed her wrist, causing her to look up.
Her eyes were wide before she quickly recovered with a slight laugh.
"S-sorry, I'm fine. Just tired." She smiled weakly, her wrist felt like it was on fire and yet she didn't want to pull away.
"Don't lie to me," whispered Sasuke. Was it the alcohol that made her think he moved closer?
"I–"
Later, perhaps, she would say she swayed from being drunk, but she really just wanted to kiss him. She was so close too; she could feel his warm breath on her lips. With a shaky breath she looked into his eyes.
She could've drowned.
The grip on her wrist tightened slightly as he hesitantly moved his face closer to hers—their noses bumping before they both froze, the situation really making itself known in their minds.
His lips were so close, if she just–
"I'm sorry," she said, looking down to break the temptation. "We really did have a lot to drink, huh?"
She pulled her wrist free before turning back towards the direction of their house. A lump lodged itself in her throat as the corners of her eyes pricked.
Sasuke wasn't drunk. Of this she was certain.
Sakura had been right—rejection would've been much easier than knowing that they were doomed because of distance. Reality was just cruel.
"Wait," said Sasuke, taking her hand in his and turning her to face him.
"Don't," she said, as his other hand came to her cheek.
"Sakura," said Sasuke, his voice wanting.
"Don't do this, Sasuke," said Sakura. "It'll just hurt more when I have to leave."
Sasuke rested his forehead against hers.
"You won't remember this in the morning," he said.
Sakura gave him a small smile. "You will."
"Let me worry about that."
Sakura sucked in a sharp breath as his eyes flickered up from her lips to her eyes. She gave a hesitant nod before he pressed his lips to hers. He was hesitant at first, almost unsure. Sakura found herself melting closer as her hands found their way to his spiky hair. The action seemed to embolden him as his hands slipped around her waist and the touch of his lips grew more confident.
She let out a content sigh through her nose before he pulled away.
"Happy birthday, Sakura."
Sakura could feel the alcohol slowly hazing her mind. Or perhaps it was the after effects of being kissed? Curiously, she traced Sasuke's lower lip and found herself smiling. She wouldn't remember this in the morning, but somehow she felt she would always know. Her hand absently found the necklace he had given her.
She would always be his, even if it were impossible to be with him.
Looking up at him, Sakura hoped he could see the words that were far too painful to utter under the circumstances as she settled for something nonetheless meaningful, "Thank you."

. . .


Chapter Thirty-three_
"Sorrowful Serenity" :

Sasuke was staring again, he knew it, but he simply couldn't look away. Ever since he kissed Sakura, he felt like there was something there. Not love, no, he knew that was hopeless from the beginning. No matter the feelings they share, they simply lived in two different worlds. But being with her, he felt as if they had gone into a realm he couldn't really define. They weren't a couple and yet that's how they acted.
Her eyes flickered up to him then, a light blush on her cheeks when he didn't look away.
"What is it?" she asked.
Sasuke shook his head. "Nothing."
Looking back at his paperwork, he caught the slight twitch of her lips as she smiled knowingly. They never talked about what happened on her birthday. She'd woken with a headache that could take out a heard of elephant's apparently and said the last thing she remembered was her third shot.
He didn't believe her. Not when she had that look. Whenever she caught him staring—which happened much more often then he cared to admit—she would always get this content look on her face.
Whether she remembered the kiss or not, she was aware that something had changed between them. Sasuke couldn't decide if this was a good or bad thing. He was growing more and more attached to her every day. Before, simply loving her from afar had been aggravating, but it was also hopeless. This—this weird limbo of being together but not actually admitting it to themselves was starting to get painful.
Still, Sasuke couldn't stop it. Being with her, having this time with her no matter how brief was something he couldn't bring himself to regret.
"Shit."
Sasuke looked up when the curse fell from Sakura's lips. She had an irritated frown as she worked at pulling out the staple she just put in a stack of papers. Sasuke's eyes narrowed. That was the seventh time she made a mistake. What the hell had her so distracted?
She glanced up at him apparently feeling his stare. Sasuke merely raised a questioning brow.
Sakura blushed and tried to act like nothing happened.
"What's up with you?" asked Sasuke finally.
"Nothing," said Sakura immediately.
Sasuke didn't let up with his stare. With an exasperated sigh, Sakura admitted, "I was… asked out on my way over here."
Sasuke didn't have time to even comprehend the fire that suddenly seemed to burn beneath his skin and coil in his stomach.
"You said no."
It wasn't a question—actually, it sounded more like a threat then anything. Sakura's frown deepened.
"Well, not exactly." Sighing, Sakura murmured, "I said I'd think about it, I mean–"
"Think about it?" hissed Sasuke, glaring at the girl. What the hell was there to think about! Before he could reign in his own thoughts, words were flying from his mouth. "Don't be stupid. You're only here for a few more months. It's pointless to date anyone. It's not like he would ever move to Konoha for you."
It was Sakura's turn to glare.
"I wouldn't exactly say pointless," said Sakura, her voice accusing. "And you have no idea what could happen! You don't know the guy. I mean, are you saying I'm not worth moving for?"
Sasuke's jaw tensed at the accusation. His mind was still reeling with the fury he felt at this entire situation that he almost blurted out: Of course you're worth it, you idiot.
Instead, he ignored that knee jerk reaction to speak with his heart and listened to his head.
"I'm saying it's unlikely." Giving Sakura a pointed glare, he turned the tables. "Would you move to Oto for him?"
"I–" Sakura stopped, pursed her mouth before turning her glare back to the paperwork. "It doesn't even matter. I'm not going to say yes, I'm just bad at rejecting people."
"You didn't answer my question," said Sasuke, insistent. "Would you move to Oto for him?"
Would you move to Oto for me?
Sakura stared at him, her mouth slightly agape. He knew he was treading along forbidden territory, but he couldn't help it. He wanted to hope, for once in his life he just wanted to hope.
Sakura looked down, her bangs quickly veiling her eyes.
"My life is in Konoha," she murmured.
Sasuke didn't push the matter as he felt a sharp ache in his chest. She was right. Her life was in Konoha. He knew this wasn't easy for her either and no matter how much he wished to be selfish, he kept himself from saying anything to make her feel guilty for having to leave. After all, he was the one who left Konoha first.
Still, he somehow knew she could hear his unspoken response: But I'm here.

. . .


Chapter Thirty-four_
"Curiosity" :

Sasuke was pissed.
The little prick.
Who the hell did he think he was, anyway?
Sasuke's eyes narrowed even more—his brows furrowing and his lips pressed so tight all the color left. If looks could kill... then again, with his Sharingan he supposed he could kill someone with a single look. A smirk found his lips at that thought. Maybe he should test out that theory? He already had a test subject in mind.
His eyes slid to the guy currently chatting with Sakura.
Sasuke spent the next two minutes running through every way he knew to kill a person starting with the least painful and working his way up. It helped. A little. That was until Sakura let out a laugh at the pricks story.
Sasuke scoffed, but was otherwise ignored by the other two.
Why did Sakura even have to let that guy tag along? It had been a normal morning. Sakura consumed large quantities of coffee and lectured him on his lack of sleep and how they really should take a day off when there was a knock at the door—aka 'the prick'.
Sasuke didn't know if this was the same idiot who'd asked Sakura out a few weeks ago and in the end he didn't really care. All he knew was that he wanted them to all get it through their stupid skulls that they needed to back off.
Sakura laughed again.
Was she flirting with him? Sasuke glanced at the girl at his side—her attention on the prick. She was smiling, her eyes focused on the other male but as Sasuke looked closer he saw the slight strain to her smile and the hint of exasperation in her eyes.
It gave him a bit of comfort to know she was simply being typical Sakura not wanting to hurt someone's feelings. At the same time, it annoyed him to hell that she was like that. It just made all these guys think they had a chance.
Tch.
The prick made another comment and absently touched Sakura's shoulder in the process. Sasuke's hands immediately fisted. Was this guy mentally handicapped? Could he not sense the murderous aura coming from Sasuke?
Sasuke grit his teeth. How he wanted to just tell this guy to fuck off, but the words simply wouldn't form on his tongue. After all, it'd just show that he was being affected by this guy's presence. He knew Sakura wasn't interested—knew that he had nothing to worry about, but that fury in his gut was relentless.
He wasn't jealous—he told himself—no, of course not. He just felt for Sakura. She was too kind for her own good.
If he wasn't so wrapped up in denial, Sasuke might've realized he was jealous and not just of the fact that someone else was getting Sakura's attention. He was jealous at how easily the guy flirted with her. He had a certain restraint when it came to their relationship. Anything physical was completely avoided. The kiss had been a spur of the moment mistake that Sasuke didn't regret, but had no intentions of ever repeating. It only left him craving more.
A little flirting seemed to find its way into their interaction when they were particularly tired, but other than that they kept things as platonic as possible. He reasoned it was because they would only be setting themselves up for the pain of losing all of that. In the back of his mind, however, was that tiny whisper that he just wasn't the type of guy to express his feelings in an open way. Or really at all for that matter.
With Sakura, however, he wanted to. He wanted to see how she'd react. Curiosity, yes, that's all it was. His pride, however, overpowered that particular emotion.
Until the prick leaned in a little too close to Sakura again, that is.
His hand acted on its own. Really, it did. Maybe. He wasn't exactly sure as all thought process stopped the moment his knuckles brushed against hers. His eyes flickered to her smaller form instantly to see her shoulders grow tense. His curiosity piqued.
What would Sakura do if he held her hand? It wasn't at all typical of him. Actually, it wasn't like him at all. Physical contact was something he loathed more then anything. It was like being reminded all over again of everything he lost. Yet… yet when it was Sakura it wasn't like that at all. Being close to her always seemed to cancel out the world, his past. It was like all that existed was the two of them.
Plus, it might get the message across to the prick to back the fuck off.
Sasuke looked back at the path before him—calculating, debating. With a mental shrug he decided what the hell. In one smooth motion he grabbed her smaller hand in his, wrapping his fingers around the dainty appendage just enough so that if she wanted to pull away she could, but not too light so she wasn't wondering if he really meant to be doing that.
Sakura's response was instant. Her entire body grew tense, her arm stiff as if she had no idea what to do. Sasuke took a quick glance to see her smile had left and was now replaced with a wide-eyed expression of shock. She didn't look away from the prick though. It was like her entire mind shut down and she was simply forcing one foot in front of the other.
A smug smirk lifted Sasuke's lips.
He forced his eyes to the path before him, his expression returning to normal. He caught the slight movement of Sakura's head before she glanced at him. She was blushing, he noticed. It was in that moment that the prick looked over too. He fumbled over his words before clearing his throat and continuing on with his story. His tone, however, was forced and slightly annoyed.
Sasuke thought none too humbly: You didn't have a chance regardless, dumbass.
When the prick finished whatever he was going on about, he stammered out some lame excuse and took the next road that went in a different direction.
Sasuke was just glad to be rid of him.
He felt Sakura's eyes on him instantly, but didn't dare acknowledge it. He waited until she looked away, before glancing down at her. She was looking at the ground, a blush on her cheeks and he could see the slight indentation of her trying to suppress a smile.
Her grip tightened slightly as they continued to walk.
Sasuke wondered at the lack of awkwardness as he saw the training center come into view. They had their routine of Sakura nagging and talking about nothing in particular. They had their playful arguments and not-so subtle glances. This, however, was something Sasuke had never imagined himself doing.
He was holding Sakura's hand.
It felt nice. It felt right.
Coming up to the training center, Sakura turned towards him, her eyes on their joined hands. Smiling with that blush still on her cheeks, she looked up a little shyly and said, "Um, I'll see you tonight."
"Aa."
Sasuke couldn't take his eyes from her face. She looked so happy in that moment. His heart swelled at the fact that he was the reason for that smile.
Reluctantly taking back his hand, he turned down the road after a quick, "See you tonight."
As he finished his walk to work, Sasuke came to a conclusion: Maybe he should make a few adjustments to his relationship with Sakura. Maybe… maybe things like holding hands wasn't so bad.
. . .


Chapter Thirty-five_
"New Tenant" :

"My feet hurt," said Sakura, her eyes nearly closed as she forced her legs to move.
"Hnnn," replied Sasuke, his infamous phrase turning into a tired yawn.
Sakura leaned a bit on Sasuke as they turned the next corner. She'd talked him into finally taking a bit of time off so she could give her students a little break—and herself—but he refused saying he had too much to do.
Sakura didn't give up.
She convinced him to let her help out one night to get everything that'd slowly been piling up done. Hence they were walking home as the sun was coming up. Still, with everything they accomplished she'd convinced him to take two days off. If she weren't about to pass out, Sakura would be ecstatic.
Too bad she was dead tired.
"Carry me?" she mumbled, her eyes slipping closed as she rested her head against Sasuke's shoulder without a second thought.
He gave her hand a light squeeze. "We're almost there."
"Hmmm," hummed Sakura tiredly, "my nice comfy bed. Can't wait."
"I told you this was a bad idea," said Sasuke.
"Shut it," said Sakura, her eyes still closed as she let Sasuke guide them. "It sucks now, but tomorrow, er, I guess this afternoon, you'll be so happy to have some free time to do absolutely nothing."
Sakura smiled when there was no response. She could just picture the content look on Sasuke's face.
"Sounds nice, right?"
"…"
Sakura let out a breathy laugh.
"One of these days I'm going to get you to admit I'm right about your obsessive working habits."
Sasuke scoffed and Sakura poked his side.
"Prideful idiot," she murmured fondly.
She swore she could hear his lips tilt into a smirk.
"Come on," he said, giving her a slight nudge to open her eyes. "We're here."
Sakura straightened, her eyes adjusting to the porch light. As she reached for the door she realized it was slightly ajar. She frowned and glanced back at Sasuke. His Sharingan eyes were already focused on the open doorway as he gave a slight nod.
Silently, the two shinobi slipped into their home.
Sakura swept the place with her chakra to find it free of genjutsu or other chakra signatures. She gave Sasuke a confused frown before going into the kitchen and flicking on the lights—her senses still alert.
"What the–"
Sakura looked around in disbelief at the room. The fridge was wide open. Food was everywhere. Milk lay in a puddle on the floor. Eggs were cracked here and there. Sakura noticed Sasuke glaring angrily at the smashed tomatoes.
"Who the hell would be stupid enough to break into this house?" asked Sakura as she continued to survey the damage.
Sasuke merely grunted before turning to go check the other rooms. As soon as he took a step, however, Sakura caught the disjointed movement before he fell on his back. Groaning, Sasuke glanced up to see two beady eyes and a snout.
There was a quick yip before Sakura let out a delighted squeal and picked up the small puppy burglar.
Sakura ignored the glare Sasuke gave her as she hugged the mutt.
"No," he said, his tone final.
Sakura immediately glared.
"I didn't even say anything!"
"The answer is still no."
Sakura poked out her bottom lip. Sasuke's glare didn't waver.
"Pleeeaaseeee, Sasuke-kun?"
"No," said Sasuke as he stood. Sakura knew he was just trying to get away from her pouting. He was a softy on the inside.
She figured she could follow him around and just wait until he cracks, but she was tired and that would take effort. So, instead, she sat the dog back down and wrapped her arms around him from behind.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" she said before motioning for the dog to follow her up the stairs.
"I said no," yelled Sasuke, annoyed.
"I can't hear you!" sang back Sakura before she shut her door with an excited bang.
She always wanted a dog.

. . .

Chapter Thirty-six_
"Sensitize" :

Hadn't Sakura said something about having nothing to do?
Annoying little liar.
"Oh, stop brooding, Sasuke-kun," chastised Sakura as she hung another flyer with the dog's picture. He supposed he shouldn't be too angry. After all, if the dog already belonged to someone he'd be rid of it.
His glare darkened at the thought of having to keep the little demon canine. It'd been with them for a half day and Sasuke was ready to torch the damn thing. His thoughts darkened as he continued to give the puppy evil looks.
"Oh my God," said Sakura, rolling her eyes as she shoved a stack of flyers in Sasuke's hands. "Stop being such a drama queen and go hang these up."
Sasuke just grunted in annoyance before stalking off ahead of Sakura. That damn dog had its beady little eyes on him the whole time. Sasuke's eyes narrowed into a deadly measure as the dog's ears lowered.
He smirked.
Smart dog.
As he was hanging the flyers, Sasuke noticed a small group of girls off in the street that kept glancing at him. Great, as if his day couldn't get any worse. Slapping another flyer up with a bit more force than was necessary a thought struck him.
Glancing at the group of five airheads, he noticed them all blush before looking away with a giddy laugh. He looked back at the flyers in his hand before a smirk found his lips.
That could work, he thought absently.
From the corner of his eye, he noticed Sakura pause as she watched him. His smirk only widened. He could just picture the confused frown on her face as he walked up to the group of lovesick idiots. Even more so, he wondered if she felt that same twisting annoyance in his gut that he had to put up with every time a guy decided to talk to her.
He was still in denial about this whole jealousy thing. He was an Uchiha after all.
Sasuke was rude to them. He had no problem admitting that much, but they were annoying and stupid and kept looking at him like he was a piece of meat. Still, they didn't waste a second in agreeing to help hang the flyers. Did he feel bad about using them and exploiting their misplaced desires? Not in the least.
"You're horrible," said Sakura as she stuck up another flyer.
Sasuke was leaning against the wall beside her feeling rather smug. Especially because he could tell by the way she avoided looking at him that she was annoyed.
"They could've said no," he replied.
Sakura let out a sharp laugh. "Please, they were too busy drooling to have any brain function."
"I don't see why you're angry," said Sasuke with a curious eye on Sakura. "They'll be a lot quicker about getting the flyers up."
"I'm not angry," said Sakura darkly, before heading down a few feet and slapping up another flyer. The wall trembled beneath her palm before she turned to glare at Sasuke, her hands on her hip. "Just, I can't believe how obnoxious people can be! You were a total ass. Ugh, I just want to slap the stupid right out of them!" Sasuke merely raised an eyebrow as more words spilled from Sakura's mouth, "I mean, do they really think they have a chance? Stupid. Promise me you'll marry someone who will tell you when you're being an ass. You're ego doesn't need to get any bigger."
Perhaps it was how easily the words were flowing out of her mouth or the irritation caused from the dog or the lack of sleep. Sasuke had no idea. Perhaps it was just because. Regardless, the fact remained that, without a moments pause, he replied, "What, you mean you?"
Tense was an understatement.
Sasuke felt his chest grow tight. His lungs burned with the desire of air, but he couldn't seem to remember how to breath as his eyes remained on Sakura's—those damn eyes that seemed to swallow him whole.
The rapidly increasing beat of his heart rang so clearly in his ears and for a moment he thought he heard hers too. Just as quick. Just as confused and just as in love.
Everything else—the buzz of the insects, the rustle of the leaves, the tinkle of wind chimes, the steady pulse of idle chatter—never met his ears.
It was just Sasuke and Sakura.
And to him, to Uchiha Sasuke, it was perfect.
Just as Sakura was about to open her mouth—when he thought he was starting to remember how to breathe—a little girl came up, squealed in happiness and tackled that damn dog into a hug and shattered whatever it was that was about to pass between them.
That was when Sasuke made up his mind—he was going to skin that damn mutt alive.

. . .


Chapter Thirty-seven_
"Children" :

"Keiko!" said Sakura, a confused frown on her face.
Sasuke glanced at her and then back at the little girl and her dog. Sakura knew her?
"Hi, Auntie Sakura!" said the little girl with a wide grin—her front teeth missing. Sasuke looked at Sakura now, his eyes demanding answers. Auntie Sakura?
"Oh!" said Sakura. "Sasuke, this is Keiko, Keiko this is Sasuke."
The little girl named Keiko smiled. "It's very nice to meet you. Will you take me to get some ice cream?"
Sasuke ignored the comment, as he continued to look at Sakura. "You have a brother?"
"No, she's–"
"Yo."
Sasuke looked up to see Kakashi, his hand up in a lazy wave. He was beyond confused at this point as he looked from Kakashi, to Sakura, to Keiko, to the damn dog.
What the hell was going on?
"Daddy!" said Keiko as she ran up to Kakashi. "Uncle Sasuke's going to take me to get some ice cream!"
"What?" said Sasuke, his voice irritated because no one was explaining anything, damn it!
"That's nice of him," said Kakashi as he smiled down at the little girl.
"I'm not getting you ice cream," said Sasuke through gritted teeth as he glared at Keiko. He didn't notice the glance exchanged between Sakura and Kakashi—nor the amused gleam in their eyes.
Poor, poor Sasuke. He had no idea who he was messing with.
Keiko turned her head towards him oh-so-slowly. Her eyes narrowed in a way that put the Uchiha's glare to shame. Sasuke ignored the urge to swallow. What the hell was with this kid?
"Yes," said the girl, her voice dark, "you are."
Sasuke's pride smacked him upside the head then, as he only glared down at the… well, he wasn't sure if she was a girl anymore. She looked absolutely evil at that point. Still, he wasn't going to be shown up by some—what was she four? Five? It didn't matter. She wasn't going to get him to buy her ice cream. Or anything else for that matter.
"No," he said, "I'm not."
He watched as Keiko eyed him thoughtfully before her eyes grew wide and her bottom lip jutted out. Sasuke was glad he was already ticked off or else he might've felt bad as the girl started to cry. He merely scoffed. She wouldn't win that easily.
What happened next, however, only served to show just how cunning little Keiko was.
"A-auntie S-Sakura!" cried Keiko as she ran over to the pinkette and hugged her leg. "Your boyfriend's a m-meanie head! I c-can't b-b-believe you w-would da-date someo-one hic so r-rude! O-or let someone s-s-so m-mean k-kiss y-you and–"
Sasuke gritted his teeth as an angered (and slightly embarrassed) blush crawled up the back of his neck. He knew the girl wasn't going to stop unless he gave in to her demands and he didn't really want to find out where she was going with her little ruse. Plus the fact that her words were bringing up memories he didn't quite want to think about at the moment, Sasuke had no other choice.
"Fine," said Sasuke as he turned down the road. Keiko let out a happy cheer as she ran up beside him and grabbed his hand.
"Thank you, Uncle Sasuke!" she said as she skipped along beside him with her grin back in place and the damn dog at her heels. "It was so nice of you to offer."
Sasuke could only grunt as he forced himself not to squeeze her hand too hard. Sakura and Kakashi followed a few steps behind and as Keiko hummed happily beside him, Sasuke tuned her out and tried to hear what the two were talking about.
More specifically, he wanted to know what Kakashi and his demon daughter were doing in Oto.
"So, I see Keiko's still got her touch," said Sakura. Sasuke could hear the smirk on her face. The little…
"I suppose so," said Kakashi. "But how are you? It's been awhile. Oto treating you well."
"Hmm? Oh yeah, no Oto's great, but what exactly are you doing here?"
"Visiting," said Kakashi simply.
Sasuke thought that sounded suspicious.

. . .


Chapter Thirty-eight_
"Observation" :

Interesting.
It was the only thing that seemed to cross Kakashi's mind as he watched Sasuke and Sakura throughout the day. He remembered them when they were twelve, when Sakura was just a prepubescent girl with a crush and Sasuke was an obsessive avenger with a giant chip on his shoulder. He remembered Sakura's constant desire of Sasuke's attention—of his recognition—and he remembered she never received it.
Now, however, it was as if Sasuke couldn't take his eyes off of her. He had to hand it to the Uchiha, the signs were subtle. The barely noticeable glances. The way he always seemed to be right at the pinkette's side. Funny thing too, was Sasuke didn't appear to even realize he was doing it. It was as if he was just drawn to her. It was all innate almost as if it was simply habit now, which made Kakashi wonder…
He recalled Naruto's similar observation upon his return to Konoha. He also mentioned how much happier Sakura had been—saying it was the first time in ages he hadn't seen her half distracted with something or other. Kakashi had to agree with that, but there was something else between the two, something that must've happened after Naruto's visit. The blond had said they were so far in denial about their feelings it made the years he was unaware of Hinata's feelings look like nothing.
That was definitely not the case.
The hovering and the looks the two shared would be hard for anyone to pick out as something more. If anything, they just appeared to be close friends. For someone like Sasuke, though, giving someone else his undivided attention was much more meaningful and the fact that things went beyond that—the fact that they were holding hands as if it was the most normal thing in the world, the way Sakura nagged and teased and Sasuke—Uchiha Sasuke—let her (though not without a few words of his own, of course) was ground breaking.
It seemed, Kakashi realized with a smile, that he hadn't needed to visit Oto after all. When he'd gotten a little time off, he thought he might drop by and see if he couldn't bring his students closer together. Albeit he was also hoping to enjoy a little bit of the embarrassment he could give the two, but that was beside the point. It was his duty as their sensei to help them along the 'road of life.'
To see that they figured it out themselves, well, he was rather proud. Still, there was something off about the situation. It was there, in their eyes each time they met. Like they were trying so desperately to ignore what was around them, to just forget about the rest of the world. This wasn't what concerned Kakashi though, it was the deep sadness laced inside that look, the little glimmer of heartbreak. Why, wondered Kakashi, why would they look like that? It was obvious to anyone that the two shared the same feelings towards one another. What could possibly–
The answer hit Kakashi over the head in an instant.
It wasn't their feelings getting in the way; it was something they couldn't control, something they couldn't change. Something so basic. It was a matter of distance. At that moment Kakashi wanted to smack them both upside the head like they were twelve years old again.
With a quiet sigh, he slipped his book into his nin-pack. It seemed he would have to do some meddling after all.

. . .


Chapter Thirty-nine_
"Nudge" :

Sakura nearly cut herself twice as she ran a knife along a tomato. Kakashi, Sasuke and Keiko were sitting at the table. Keiko had convinced them (in her own devious and slightly evil way) to play some word game with her. Sakura hadn't really been paying too much attention until she absently caught Sasuke say 'pretty princess' and then she started to listen. Intently. Thus leading to her laughing her ass off but trying none to successfully to not make it noticeable.
The knife slid a hair shy of her finger when she caught Sasuke glaring at her and another laugh shook her form. It was all just too much. Sitting at her kitchen table were two elite ninja, the best of the best. Grown men would wet themselves at the mere sight of Kakashi and Sasuke yet a little girl could get them to say 'pretty princess.'
She had to hand it to Keiko—the girl had skills.
Keiko and Kakashi had been there two days and even though Sasuke had said no to everything the little girl asked, he somehow ended up conceding in the end. Sakura had never laughed so much in a mere forty-eight hours. She was going to be a little sad to see them leave tonight—hence the farewell meal.
Though, she supposed, it was only a few more months until she would be back in Konoha and could see them whenever she wanted. Sasuke, however…
Her mood quickly went south as she absently stirred the contents in one of the pots. She hadn't heard Keiko's little feet patter across the hardwood as she let the puppy out or Sasuke come to lean against the counter beside her.
"You look distracted."
Sakura nearly jumped at the sound of his voice. Glancing at him, Sakura couldn't help but smile a little—typical Sasuke talking in circles. Sometimes she wondered if it was really so hard to ask: are you okay?
"Just thinking," she said. And it was the truth. She hadn't been able to stop thinking about them and about what happened just moments before Keiko showed up.
A blush quickly flooded her cheeks like every other time she recalled the words: What, you mean you?
It was almost as if he proposed right then in there. After all, he loved to talk in circles, didn't he? It wasn't as if he would ever outright say, 'Sakura, will you marry me.'
Sakura immediately turned her head so her hair hid her face, tears pricking at the corner of her eyes when she realized she would never know what Sasuke might say. No, that wasn't true, she was sure his future wife would love to tell the story.
"I'll be right back," mumbled Sakura as he felt the telltale lump lodge itself in her throat.
She was far too distracted with keeping herself together that she didn't hear the kitchen chair slide out or Kakashi mumble, "Let me talk to her."
Standing in the middle of her bedroom, Sakura took deep breaths as she blinked furiously against the tears threatening to fall. She couldn't fall apart. Not now. She needed to stop thinking about this. It was just too soon. After all, she still had time in Oto. It wasn't much, but she wasn't about to waste it feeling sorry.
Taking in a deep breath, Sakura wiped the few tears as she gathered herself. That was when there was a knock on the doorframe. She spun instantly to see Kakashi with is book in his hand.
"Hey!" she said, with a cheery smile forced in place. "I was just about to come back, I just needed–"
"You know Konoha is only two days away," said Kakashi as he idly turned a page of his book, "and if there's ever an emergency there are ways of getting places quickly enough."
Sakura was wide-eyed as she stared at Kakashi, "I–"
"And this is just the sort of thing to strengthen the bond between villages. So, really, if you think about it, you'd be going above and beyond your shinobi duty," said Kakashi, an amused smile playing beneath his mask.
Sakura blushed ten shades of red at the implication of going 'above and beyond.' The perv. Still, it served to distract her from her thoughts of unwanted good-byes. Then she finally grasped what it was he was truly saying and she felt the air rush out of her along with her blush.
She had never once thought it would be okay for her to stay in Oto. She didn't think she would be allowed and so she never allowed herself entertain the thought, but Kakashi had just suggested that very thing. Could she? Then more thoughts began to gnaw at her mind. Suppose Tsunade gave her permission, could she leave the life she had there? Her family? Friends?
Her mind was going in a million directions at once in that moment that she had no idea what to really think. Then, per her impeccable timing, Keiko came running up the stairs.
"Daddy! Uncle Sasuke's being a big meanie head again!"
Sakura looked at the little girl and then glanced over when Sasuke appeared in the doorway as well. The moment his eyes met hers every thought seemed to vanish except one.
I could be with Sasuke.


. . .

Chapter Forty_
"Mischief" :

Sakura was humming quietly as she made breakfast. She was feeling rather proud of herself. She managed to keep Sasuke so distracted this week that he hadn't even realized today was his birthday. It was almost eleven and he was still asleep. She supposed she could let him wake up on his own, panic about not being at work and laugh when she told him that she had arranged the day off and that he didn't need to worry about a thing. Though she knew he would regardless.
It was his birthday, though, so she supposed her own sadistic pleasure of his panicky state lost that battle. Besides, there was something she had been wanting to try.
Smiling to herself with a little blush, Sakura began creeping up the stairs.
Over the last few weeks, Sakura had gone through more emotional mood swings then she knew what to do with. It seemed that Kakashi's little remark had only caused more trouble for her warring thoughts. On one hand, she loved Sasuke and she wanted to be with him. On the other hand, she loved Konoha. She had a life there and friends. She had duties to that village and she felt almost like a traitor to consider just dropping all of her responsibilities.
Every other day it seemed she found herself leaning in the opposite direction. The ones where moving to Oto seemed to be in the lead she found herself over-stepping the little boundaries of her and Sasuke's relationship. She found herself wanting more, to just take the plunge. The ones where she thought it impossible to leave Konoha behind she wouldn't so much as flirt with him.
Whether Sasuke had picked up on her erratic behavior or not she wasn't sure, but he wasn't an idiot. He probably knew something was up.
Today? Today she had no idea what she was going to do. She had gone through every pro and con of her two choices at least a dozen times and she could never seem to make up her mind as something would suddenly make her lean one way and then two minutes later the next. No, today she didn't want to think about that. Today she wanted to celebrate Sasuke's birthday. Today she wanted to forget about this decision.
Today she wanted to pretend that everything was perfect and nothing stood between her and Sasuke.
Easing his door open, she padded across the room and couldn't help but smile at his sleeping form. He always looked like such a little kid. Biting her lip, her blush burning her cheeks, Sakura eased herself onto the edge of the mattress beside him. She didn't dare breathe when there was slight creak. She watched, her muscles tense, to see if she woke Sasuke.
He didn't move.
Letting out her breath, she slowly leaned down until her head was hovering just above his. She supposed this was their second kiss, but she didn't remember their first. All she could recall was the warmth of his hands at her waist—the feeling of being so completely content.
If she returned to Konoha, if whatever was between them was only for this measly little year, Sakura decided she would take what she could get—even if it was only memories.
She pressed her lips to his.
He tensed, his hands clamped around her shoulders and then he must've realized the situation as his grip loosened and he began to kiss her back.
It couldn't have been anything like the first, thought Sakura, because there was absolutely no way she could forget the sheer bliss and adrenaline and desire that was coursing through her veins as Sasuke's hand threaded itself through her hair.
She pulled back just slightly, her forehead resting on his as she tried to catch her breath. He had to be able to hear her heart at the pace it was going. She was still blushing when she found the nerve to meet his eyes and it only intensified as she realized what she'd just done.
A smile tugged at the corner of her lips. She felt rather empowered then and all too happy to have stolen that kiss; and from the way Sasuke was looking at her, she assumed he felt pretty much the same.
"Happy birthday," said Sakura quietly as that little smile found her lips. "I know it's in bad taste to re-gift, but I thought you might like it."
Sasuke let out a sharp breath of a laugh before looking over at his clock. "What time is it?"
"Eleven," said Sakura, counting down for the–
"What!" said Sasuke and Sakura was glad she had inhuman strength as he tried to get up without really thinking.
It was her turn to laugh.
"Calm down," she said. "I took care of everything. You're not working on your birthday!"
Sasuke was about to protest when Sakura had a rather ingenious idea. After all, today nothing stood between them, right?
Teasingly, she pressed her lips to the corner of Sasuke's mouth and he instantly stilled. She didn't stop there as her lips trailed along his jaw murmuring, "If you really want to go to work."
"Hn."
Sasuke had turned his head, his fingers guiding her own and the distance was just about closed when Sakura stood up.
"Well," she said, her playful mood still in full, "we don't want breakfast to get cold."
She left the room in a rush and burst out laughing as she heard Sasuke growl from the hall. She was just at the base of the stairs when his arms wrapped themselves around her waist. His face was nestled in the crook of her neck as he whispered, "Where do you think you're going, Sakura?"
Sakura had seen many different sides of Sasuke during her time in Oto, sides she hadn't believed he possessed. Being there, in his arms, Sakura realized she wanted to know everything about Sasuke. She wanted to see him through this life, wanted to experience it with him. She wanted to be the one to kiss him awake in the morning. She wanted to be the one to tease him just because and get away with it. She wanted to be the one he walked home from work with at night.
This decision, Oto or Konoha, was as pointless as trying to deny they loved each other. She knew exactly what she wanted, she always had. Now she had to accept that and everything it entailed—the good and the bad.
Slowly, finally understanding what had been right in front of her the entire time, Sakura turned so she was facing Sasuke.
Smiling, she met his eyes and she felt free. She felt as if the world was at her fingertip.
She was no longer pretending that today everything was PERFECT, that nothing stood in their way.
Resting her forehead against his, she answered, "Nowhere."