Sakura awakened in the duskiness of dawn, peeling herself from her empty bed, with a full spirit. She felt rejuvenated, quenched by a full night of sleep and a day to herself outside of the cold white walls of the hospital. With a sigh, she stretched, fingertips reaching for the ceiling. She reveled in the barely-there soreness of her limbs due in equal parts to sparring with Sasuke at the training grounds and...“sparring” again in her kitchen, then again her living room, and finally in her bed.
Sakura felt as if her grin could illuminate the nearly-dark room, as she shook her head at her thoughts and padded to her bathroom to prepare for her day.
When she was cleaned and dressed, she sprang briskly over the rooftops of the village toward the hospital, not because she was hurried, but simply to enjoy the view, the damp breeze against her face.
Her thoughts wondered again as she watched sunrays peek shyly over the vast green forest in the distance. As her eyes gazed upon the reincarnation of daytime, her mind’s eye saw the tilt of Sasuke’s slight smile, the sparkle that appeared in his eye when she managed to amuse him. Sakura wondered, as the sun began lifting further in the sky, which image shone brightest.
She smiled to herself when she jumped down to the hospital entrance. When she entered, the familiar smell of antiseptic filled her nostrils and she nodded at the nurses and orderlies that greeted her as she walked toward the elevator that would take her to her office.
“Haruno-san,” a breathless voice called as a flustered medic-nin in training hustled into the elevator just before the doors shut.
“Good morning, Michi-kun,” Sakura smiled. “How can I help you?”
“I...was hoping,” the young man swallowed, slipping a finger between his neck and the collar of his shirt nervously. “I-I hoped that I could...shadow you, Haruno-san.”
Sakura raised her brows curiously, “You’re nearly finished with your residency, Michi-kun, isn’t that right? You will be taking patients on your own, soon.”
“Yes,” he nodded, eyes flitting to his toes. “But… you are the best medic that this village- any of the villages have ever seen, Haruno-san.”
“You flatter me,” she chuckled somewhat bashfully. “I learned from the very best, which made me the best I could be.”
Michi looked into her face then, and the determination in his eyes coupled with the weakness about his mouth made her feel nostalgic. She could remember a young girl with that same look staring into her reflection.
“That’s why,” he said, his gentle voice tinged with something fierce. “I want to learn from the best, like you did. I know I’ve technically completed my studies but...I am hoping you will take me as your apprentice.”
Sakura was shocked, and was thankful for their arrival on her floor. She gestured for Michi to exit and tried to gather her thoughts. A mixture of pride and hesitation mixed together in her stomach.
Sakura may well have been further in her career as both a shinobi and medic-nin than most at her age, but she was still only 20. She wasn’t sure she could in good faith take someone who really could have been her peer under her wing, as Tsunade once did for her.
“Have a seat, Michi-kun,” she gestured to the chair in front of her desk, setting her belongings and herself down somewhat awkwardly as the young man watched her with hopeful eyes.
“I promise I will make you proud,” he said suddenly. “I can’t say I will ever become the master medic you are, but...I scored well in my studies, and I believe medic-ninjutsu comes to me naturally. And I want to help people. To save lives, shinobi and civilians. I want to make my family and my village proud.”
Sakura clasped her hands in front of her and met Michi’s gaze.
“I will let you shadow me, and work along-side me,” she said, finally, her voice soft. He visibly exhaled and relaxed in his seat and she nearly giggled. “I’m no one’s master yet, but… we can consider this a kind of extended program since you have almost finished your official studies. You’ll be doing your own rotations and taking patients because we need staff but… half of that time will be spent shadowing me, and I will try to teach you my specializations.”
“Thank you, Haruno-san!” the man in front of her shot up from his seat and bent in a deep bow. “I mean...Haruno-sensei.”
“Sakura, or Sakura-sensei is just fine,” she smiled, laughing a little when he nodded frantically. “I’m going to do my morning rounds. Please come meet me here at my office around 11:00. I have a surgery scheduled for noon, and I want you to assist.”
Michi nodded enthusiastically, “Hai, sensei!” before ducking out of her office with a bow.
Sakura shook her head slightly, sighing deeply as she donned her lab coat and grabbed her clipboard. A whisper of a smile played at her lips, and she felt warm inside as she went about her morning rotations.
By the time her lunchtime came around, Sakura was tired and her good mood ground into dust. The first half of her day was a blur of small injuries, classrooms of children stricken with a contagious chest cold and the surgery she conducted that was half lesson for Michi, half procedure.
She dragged her feet into her office a good three and a half hours past noon, fully prepared to lock her door and indulge in a thirty-minute nap. Sakura just knew the piles of paperwork on her desk would make a fantastic pillow.
Upon entering her office, though, she was startled to find Sasuke standing in the room, gazing at her bookshelf.
“Sasuke-kun,” she gasped, blinking at him as he turned to face her with a small nod of greeting. “What are you doing here? And how’d you get in?”
“You weren’t here during normal lunchtime to open the window,” he replied, watching her intently as she entered the room fully and shed her white coat. “I came back later and asked at the front desk. An assistant let me in.”
“Is something wrong?” Sakura asked, worried, approaching him and beginning to run her eyes over his form.
Sasuke shook his head, reaching for a bag of what had to be take-out that was on her desk. “Here.”
“Sasuke-kun,” Sakura rolled her eyes as the food was forced into her hands. “I told you, stop buying me food. Thanks, but I’m a big girl, I can feed myself.”
“Hn,” was the only response she got. “I have a mission.”
“Oh, you do,” she replied, finally noticing the man stood before her in full mission gear, his long katana strapped to his back. “Do you need medical clearance?”
“No,” Sasuke shook his head. He gestured to the bag of food still clutched to her chest and Sakura rolled her eyes before shuffling around her desk to plop down and begin taking out the meal.
“Do you need me to check your eyes, or your arm?” Sakura asked, mechanically taking a bite as Sasuke stared at her pointedly.
“No,” he said. He watched her eat for a few moments, much to her chagrin, before speaking again. “I’ll be gone for about two weeks.”
“Oh,” Sakura said, and she hoped her disappointment didn’t leak through her tone. “Well, good luck, be careful.”
The dark-haired nin rolled his eyes as if to say duh before setting his eyes on hers again, “I’ll see you when I return.”
From anyone else, especially anyone with their... arrangement , it would have-- should have-- been a question. Based on the way Sasuke’s gaze burned into hers and the tone of his voice, it seemed like more of a promise.
Sakura could only nod and hope heat didn’t rise to her cheeks. “You know where to find me. Have a safe mission, Sasuke-kun.”
“Aa,” he nodded. “Good-bye, Sakura.”
He left her with one last look over his shoulder before opening her window and leaping out into the daytime. As soon as he was gone, the yearning for his presence began. Sakura sighed to herself before shoveling more food in her mouth, made tasteless by Sasuke’s absence.
Sakura had just dropped her belongings on her floor and flopped face down on her couch in exhaustion when she heard quick, loud raps at her front door. She whined into the cushions quietly, staying perfectly still as the knocks stopped and moments of silence passed.
The knocking began again and she felt a familiar, cool chakra flickering at the edges of her awareness and she groaned louder.
“Forehead!” came a muffled voice. “I know you’re home, let me in.”
She huffed before hauling herself up and stomping over to the door.
Sakura hoped her face looked as scary as possible as she swung the door open and glared at the blonde standing with her arms crossed in front of her.
“What, pig? I just ended my shift,” Sakura growled. Ino rolled her eyes and shoulder checked Sakura as she welcomed herself in.
Sakura gaped for a moment as the woman kicked off her sandals and sashayed into her living room as if she owned the place.
“Can’t a girl come visit her best friend?” the blonde woman pouted, blinking innocently at Sakura as she shuffled over to sit beside her on the couch, grumbling the whole way.
“Not when her best friend just pulled a 14-hour shift,” Sakura quipped. “What do I owe the pleasure of this visit, Ino?”
“I just wanted to spend time with you,” Ino sighed dramatically, swinging her legs over Sakura’s lap. When Sakura looked pointedly from the woman’s legs to her face, Ino simply wiggled her toes gleefully.
“That’s sweet. Thanks for stopping by, good night!” Sakura said in her most sickeningly sweet voice, sarcasm dripping.
“Nice try, forehead,” Ino scoffed. “What with a certain Uchiha occupying your nights and free days, I have to get in where I fit in.”
“Ino, shut up,” Sakura groaned, grabbing a pillow to shove over her face. She figured if she held it there long enough, Ino would leave or she’d smother herself to death.
Any way to avoid this topic of conversation.
“Nope,” Ino popped her lips on the ‘p’. “I also figured you’d be lonely, since lover-boy is away from the village for a little while. I wouldn’t want you to mope around all lonesome.”
“No moping here,” Sakura said chipperly. She moved the pillow away from her face. “Just sleeping. You should try it.”
“Aw, a sleepover?” Ino gasped dramatically, “Just like the old times!”
“No,” Sakura deadpanned. “I mean you sleep at your house , and leave mine.”
“You wound me, billboard brow.”
Sakura sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Tell me what you want, pig.”
“I’ve been thinking,” Ino said, and her face was serious when Sakura glanced up.
“That’s never good. Don’t hurt yourself.”
“Shut up,” Ino said, continuing, “I’ve been thinking about you . And Sasuke. Your not-boyfriend.”
Sakura simply stared, sure she would get to her point eventually.
“I think you should begin seeing other people,” Ino looked at her steadily.
“What I do and who I do it with isn’t any of your business Ino,” Sakura sighed. “And we’ve been through this. Hundreds of times.”
“Yes, yes,” Ino waved her off. “But we aren’t teenagers anymore. And we never controlled for you fucking the love of your life nightly-- I mean every other night . So, what I’m proposing is you just... broaden your horizons. You swore to me that nothing is and never will happen between you and the Uchiha. So…”
“So?” Sakura repeated, “What is your point? Oh, and again, how is that your business?”
“Your life became my business the day I put that ribbon in your hair,” Ino snapped, “Stop interrupting me. What I’m trying to say is that instead of just wasting all your time an energy on this man you’re supposedly only fucking… I say you fuck him all you want, but open yourself up for something real with literally anyone else. Maybe when we were kids it was the Uchiha or nothing, but Sakura… you’re a woman now. And you deserve to be with someone you love and who loves you back . If you are convinced that isn’t him… maybe there is someone else out there waiting for you to open your eyes to anyone without a sharingan.”
Ino shook her head and held up her hand before Sakura could retort. “Sakura, please. It’s just a suggestion, and I’m not saying just...be with someone else to get over Sasuke. Just… be open. Give someone a chance, for once.”
Sakura snorted, “Someone would have to want a chance for me to give them one.”
“I can think of at least five men who you have shot down because you were stuck on the damned Uchiha,” Ino retorted. “And that’s just counting viable options.”
“Ino, I’ve loved him for what feels like forever,” Sakura said quietly. “I’ve accepted that I may never...have him the way I always wanted. But… I don’t know how to not love him, yet. And when I figure out how I don’t know if I’ll be able to love anyone else.”
“Love doesn’t just happen, Sakura,” Ino said, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. Sakura felt as if her azure eyes were mirrors to her own soul. “It’s something that grows, but it has to be tended to. Nurtured. And if it dies… you can try again. Grow it differently, and it may not be the same as it was before, but it will have beauty in its own way.”
“Don’t tell me that was a flower analogy,” Sakura gave a small smile.
“Of course it was, forehead, I’m a fucking florist by non-shinobi trade.”
“Loving him was never like the flowers from your shop, Ino,” Sakura whispered. Her face felt warm but she couldn’t help but be honest with her friend. “It was always...wild. Something that could barely be tamed. I never meant for it to grow, but it just… did.”
“And it took over,” Ino added. “And it choked off the roots of any other meaningful connections you could have formed. I just want to know Sakura...do you think if maybe you stopped letting your life revolve around him, it might be easier to let go?”
Sakura was quiet for some time before she managed to answer, “I’ve been holding on for so long. I don’t know what happens when I let go.”
Ino was quiet then, too. But she pulled Sakura into her embrace and stroked her hand over her hair. Sakura shut her eyes and pressed into her, seeking comfort from the one person she knew cared for her more than anything, and didn’t judge her for listening to her silly heart instead of her good senses.
Sasuke’s return to active duty had been tumultuous, verging on infuriating at times. Missions were a splash of cold water on his back, a reminder that his atonement would likely be a lifelong commitment, and many did not forgive as easily as his beloved Team 7.
In the beginning, he and Naruto were placed together both for his sake and that of the hidden villages. Naruto was both the big stick and the diplomacy and Sasuke’s unofficial keeper to the majority of the world. The love and respect he’d earned acted as a buffer between Sasuke and anyone who mistrusted him… and Naruto was also the only shinobi alive who could detain and deal with a traitorous Uchiha should the occasion arise.
When Konoha leadership began to trust that Sasuke was a changed man, and a huge asset and Naruto was burdened with his own diplomatic responsibilities as the shoe-in for the Hokage hat, things became tense. The Uchiha found himself on missions among wary company at best, and totally distrustful and antagonistic at worst.
Unfortunately, Sasuke found his current mission to be filled with squad members who fell into the latter category.
Sasuke ran quietly at the head of the squad, pointedly ignoring the glares he felt burning into his back. He’d heard enough of their so-called whispers about his history and what they thought of his intentions. He decided early on during their journey to only speak when spoken to directly, and only regarding matters that were important to the mission.
He scoffed internally, because had it been his choice, this mission would have been solo, anyway. It was almost offensive how easy it was turning out to be, and the two other members of the three-cell team were virtually unnecessary in his eyes. Sasuke figured it would take a lot more time for them to entrust him with solo work, so he swallowed his annoyance and did as was required of him.
The sun beat down on them through the patterns of leaves above. Sasuke enjoyed the warmth, the heat of it and the warmth of the breeze on his face. After living in self-imposed darkness and then locked underground for the better part of a year, Sasuke would never forsake light, and the opportunity to exist in the day even if everyone else saw shadows because of his presence.
“Uchiha,” a voice called out behind him.
He glanced back over his shoulder and upon seeing a quick hand signal dropped down from the trees, sharingan activating as he slid his katana from its scabbard.
Sasuke and his team members fell upon a group of nukenin who were attempting to ambush a party of the Fire Daimyo’s relatives and members of his advisorship.
As Sasuke dodged attacks and cut down the enemy, he briefly thought about how they did not make rogue-nin of Zabuza’s caliber anymore. It was almost pitiful, how easily this group of ten was incapacitated. Sasuke managed to defeat a handful of them totally unscathed.
It took longer for his team to calm the cowering would-be victims once all of the had been dealt with or detained for interrogation.
“We will escort your party to your destination,” Sasuke whipped his sword around, the blood of the enemy flicking off with a quiet splat . “In case there are any more rogues who would attempt an ambush.”
The elites tittered about with relief before clambering back into their carriages. Sasuke snorted quietly to himself.
It was ironic, he thought, that these men who were so dependent on and thankful for his protection could have been his own victims not two years ago had he had the need for supplies or intel.
His squad leader approached him as the carriages and their accompaniment began to move forward again. “Take care of these bodies. Uchiha. I assume you will be able to catch up.”
Sasuke nodded, turning his face to face the dead strewn about the ground. He went about dragging the lifeless nin into a haphazard pile to easier pinpoint his jutsu.
It seemed fitting in a way, that he would lay these undervalued and despised souls to rest.
He closed his eyes, and when they reopened his mangekyou was activated and he muttered Amaterasu . Sasuke watched as the dead men were engulfed by the flames and wondered what horrors they’d run from to lead them into the darkness. Or if they’d created the horrors and the darkness. Or if it were both. He wondered if they were like him, the last of a clan, or shunned by their village. Perhaps they were the victims of their stories and this was a bitter, unhappy end to a life of equal misery. As they burned, Sasuke burned with them and wondered if this was his fate he escaped or postponed-- burning to ash in the wake of greedy elites whose crimes were not theft, murder and pillaging of small towns and passing caravans but of entire lands, nations and clans.
Sasuke lowered his gaze to the ground as what was once a band of rogue ninja became nothing more than a pile of dust. He had never been much for praying, but he thought about the men he killed finding peace or punishment wherever their souls went.
He bid the black flame to stop, and leapt away from the scorched road, into the trees to rejoin his squad. As he flashed through the treeline, the smell of burnt flesh and ash stung his nose.
Sasuke meandered through the village gates in the darkness of night. He spared barely a nod to the chunin guards, not bothering to bid his squad goodbye. He tipped his head back to peer at the sky above.
He’d been gone longer than two weeks, despite plans. The daimyo ordered their extended presence, likely as a show of power to the officials he was meeting from outside of his jurisdiction. If not for the chance to bathe and sleep in a real bed, Sasuke might have objected on principle.
It felt as if he’d been gone much longer. He’d missed her. Sasuke figured he’d be used to the separation, especially between them after everything. But after their recent...reunion, it felt different.
Sasuke slowed to a stop, a short distance from his home. He made a split second decision, leaping on a nearby rooftop and running in the opposite direction.
Minutes later, he was standing at Sakura’s home, knocking.
When the door to her apartment swung open, his muscles relaxed at the sight of her. It felt good to return-- to have someone to come back to. It was too late, and she should have been sleeping but Sasuke had to admit that for once he was glad his selfishness overran his good judgement. Seeing her was too good, and his life for so long had been bereft of good things.
She beckoned him in wordlessly, a smile taking her lips. It was when she threw her arms about his shoulders, and pushed her weight against him that he smelled the faint scent of alcohol on her breath.
“You’ve been drinking,” he murmured, reaching his hand up to catch her chin as she tried to kiss him.
“Not a lot,” she sighed, moving her face away from his grasp and nuzzling into his collarbone. It was rare that she was so forward and affectionate these days, but Sasuke always appreciated the warmth of her when she was.
“I’ve only just opened the bottle, actually,” she continued, and her voice was clear, if a bit breathy, so he did not stop her from pressing her lips to his.
He kissed her deeply, but pulled away when she began tugging at his clothes.
“You should be sleeping,” he said, and she clicked her tongue before detaching herself and sweeping past him into the living room. He took off his sandals and set down his sword and mission bag before joining her. “Why are you still awake?”
“I’m not tired,” she cradled a small cup of sake, staring into her lap as she took a dainty sip. “I’m sure you are, after your mission. Plan to crash here?”
“What’s the occasion?” he asked. When her eyes flitted up to look at him, he nodded toward the drink clutched to her chest.
Her gaze shifted, and it seemed she was looking at something far away. Sakura mumbled, “Rough day at work,” before bringing her cup back to her lips.
Sasuke watched her quietly, noticing the shiftiness of her legs and the way she gripped her cup tightly with both hands. She did not take another drink as the silence settled over them, simply staring at the photos resting on the small table to his left.
Sasuke had known Sakura as a child, and despite years spent away as she grew, he had come to know her once again. So, he was sure that this silence, and the far-away look on her face meant that there were many things she was leaving unsaid. And Sakura was never a woman to hold her tongue.
“Sakura,” he spoke low, but his voice seemed loud in the silence.
“Yes, Sasuke-kun?” she turned her face back toward him, but her gaze did not meet his.
“Do you,” he began, watching her as she suddenly stood and shuffled to her small cabinet, plucking another sake cup, “want to talk about it?”
“No, Sasuke-kun,” she laughed, and it sounded fake, leaving a bitter taste at the back of his tongue. “If you’re not sleepy, you can have a drink with me, though.”
“I’ll pass,” he replied. She crossed over to where he was sitting, sidling up close to his side and placed the cup in his hand anyway.
“Come on,” she urged, biting her lip for a moment before meeting his eyes. “Just one. It’s depressing to drink alone, you know.”
“You would have been doing that if I hadn’t come by,” he noted, but held his cup out because the tone of her voice was hard enough to resist without the feel of her pressed against him.
She poured for him, before claiming her own drink again. “Good thing you showed up, then.”
She drank it faster this time, finishing it in one swallow and setting it back down.
He took a small sip. She gave him a pointed look, and he rolled his eyes before finishing it and setting the empty cup down beside hers.
“Satisfied?” he questioned, catching her gaze.
“Nearly,” she said quietly, languidly swinging her leg over his and settling herself in his lap.
Their lips met slowly, and he wrapped an arm around her waist, pressing her close to his chest. He tried to soak in the feeling of her embrace, but quickly found her hands slipping beneath his shirt and her hips rolling against him tantalizingly.
She tasted of sake and something else, and when she broke away to reach for the hem of her sleeping gown, he watched her carefully.
She bared herself to his gaze, sitting on his lap in nothing but her underwear, but reached back for her cup instead of him, snatching up the bottle of sake. She took her drink quickly as he looked on.
“Do you want to tell me why we’re really drinking?” he asked as she poured another.
She shrugged, “Technically, I am the one drinking. You only took one.”
“Aa,” he murmured. “Because you still haven’t told me exactly what we’re drinking for.”
He knew that she was too much of a heavyweight for three cups of sake to cause her fingers to tremble as they did.
“I did tell you,” she muttered, tipping her cup back before falling back into his chest, stroking her hands over his shoulders. A tempting smile played at her lips, but did not reach her eyes. “Rough day.”
“Why?” It was the only thing he could get out before her lips were on his again. He pulled away before he could lose himself, meeting her disgruntled stare with a raised brow. She scoffed, sitting up straight.
“I lost a patient,” her voice was cold, a stark difference to the warm, liquid-like tone she was speaking to him with before.
“I’m sorry,” he responded, a frown taking his face.
“Don’t,” she said, her tone hard. She shut her eyes for a moment before her shoulders relaxed and she exhaled deeply. “Don’t be sorry.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” Sasuke raked his fingers through her hair, a tightness building in his chest as she shook her head slowly.
“No,” she whispered, and then she was pressed against him again, soft and supple against his torso. “ Talking is the last thing I want to do.”
Before he could muster a reply, Sakura captured his lips again, this time tugging at his shirt aggressively, sliding her tongue deep into his mouth. Sasuke was concerned, but it was easy to become lost in her as she rocked against him intimately and pulled at his hair.
She had no want for words, and Sasuke was never any good at them. And there was a desperation in the way she touched him, so Sasuke figured the type of comfort she was seeking in that moment could not be verbalized anyway.
Sasuke understood. He knew how loss felt, how it felt to be left empty and how the world would seem to lack warmth. He hated the thought of Sakura, who was like the personification of sunlight and comfort, suffering through that cold.
So he wrapped his lone arm around her tightly, pressing her closer as she took her comfort from his mouth with her probing tongue, reached for it by the fingers she dug into his back. He let her pull away to rip his shirt off, tugging her back quickly against his bare chest, hoping that the warmth of his flesh would be enough to help chase away the chill of sadness and regret.
When Sakura pulled away from their kiss with a gasp that rattled in her chest, he sought her neck with his lips. She sighed, and it sounded like relief, but he could hear an undertone heartbreak.
“Sasuke-kun,” she breathed above his head. Her hands dropped to his lap, and she freed him from his pants with trembling hands.
He palmed her face as she rose to her knees, pressing his forehead to hers as she pushed her underwear to the side and settled over him. A choked-off moan slipped from her lips as she lowered herself completely.
Sasuke clasped her tight against him as she undulated in his lap, her pace quickening and slowing interchangeably, as did her breaths as she groaned and hissed and cried out.
She chased her pleasure, moving urgently and gripping his shoulders tight. He watched her face closely, as her features twisted and jaw dropped open. Sasuke’s attention was drawn to the crease between her brows, the tightness with which she shut her eyes.
A long moan ripped from her chest as she found her release, her head thrown back and body shaking. Her pace did not falter as she slammed herself over him, leaning in to kiss him hungrily for a moment before pulling his head against her breast with a tug of his hair.
Sasuke laved at her soft flesh with his tongue, nipping at her peaks and sighing deeply as she rolled her hips desperately. Her gasps became shaky and her moans strained, almost whining as she raced herself to the peak again.
He caught her face and brought it up to take her lips, kissing her gently. He stroked his hand over her heated flesh languidly, wordlessly willing her to slow down, to relax.
Her movements stuttered before she sank into his lap, still rolling her hips and clutching at him as if she was hanging onto something by a thread and trying to seek purchase in the joining of their bodies. The pleasure of being so deep in her warmth was distant, his mind occupied with the trembling of her muscles, of her lips.
“Sasuke,” she whispered, her voice thick. “Please.”
Sasuke gripped her around her waist tightly as they rocked together, and it was only in a moment like this, holding her with only his right arm, that he cursed Naruto for taking his left. Her moans and gasps were sounding more and more like sobs, and Sasuke wished his soul brother had not taken it from him, if only so he could hold Sakura better with it.
He lifted her body and the sound she made at the separation speared him. He laid her on her back, settling back over her quickly, gently ridding her of her undergarments and pressing his fingers into her center.
She cried out in relief as he brought her to completion with his hand, gripping his hair tightly. When she kissed him, he tasted salt as it ran down her face and over their lips.
Sasuke drank from her, her tears a liquor of passion laced with the bitterness of grief. He poured into her with his body, hoping to convey what he did not have the words to say.
He breathed consolation into her mouth and kissed away the tears that gathered atop her closed eyelids. When she bucked her hips against his center, he sank into her and made love to her slowly, pressing deep and praying it was enough to fill whatever emptiness she felt inside.
When he felt his end coming close, he moved to replace himself with his fingers once more, guiding her to climax again and again until her restless movements slowed and her body stilled, limp in his embrace.
The last moan of her last release ended in a choked sob. When Sasuke placed a hand on Sakura’s flushed cheek, she peered up at the ceiling with glossy eyes.
Sakura laid there for a few long moments, held flush against Sasuke’s body, the feel of his breath puffing against her neck. He was warm, so warm but her insides still felt icy, grief and self-disgust making everything feel frigid and hollow.
She blinked away wetness from her eyes before sitting up abruptly and detangling herself from him.
She fumbled for her sake bottle, pouring a glass and gulping it down at breakneck speed before replenishing the glass with another. She hoped the burn of the liquor would be enough to chase away the chill.
“Sakura,” Sasuke called behind her. He placed his hand on her back.
Sakura cleared her throat, muttering “What,” in a stiff tone before she took another drink.
She could feel him watching as she refilled once again, “Maybe you should slow down.”
She laughed and it tasted more bitter than the liquor against her tongue.
“You think I can’t hold my drink?” she asked, curling away from his touch. “I was apprentice to fucking Tsunade.” To further prove her point, she refilled her cup again.
“Do you want to talk about what happened with your patient?” he urged gently, eyeing the curve of her spine as she hunched into herself.
“I told you,” she replied, and her voice sounded icy in her own ears, “I don’t want to talk. I wanted to fuck, and we did that. You should probably go home and get some rest.”
She turned to face him with both the sake bottle and her cup clutched to her chest. Despite his stare, she didn’t meet his eyes as she continued pouring more drink.
“I’m not tired,” he watched her drink it down. Liquid dripped down her chin and she swiped it away with practiced steadiness. Still, she knew the alcohol was beginning to take its effect.
She could only wish it would work faster.
“Well, can’t do anything about that,” she quipped. “So unless you want to have another drink with me, or fuck again, I have nothing else to offer tonight, Sasuke-kun.”
When he only stared at her in response to her proposition, she scoffed and finished what was left in her cup before setting it down heavily on the table. Her face was flushed as she rested her forehead unsteadily in her hand.
“You can talk to me,” Sasuke spoke gently, and Sakura swallowed the lump that formed in her throat.
She did not raise her eyes to his, shaking her head numbly.
“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Sakura responded after a long moment. Her words were slower, but not quite slurred.
“Just... talk to me,” Sasuke responded, tense. Almost demanding. His tone caused aggravation to prickle down her spine, because since when did he ever care about her talking ?
“What? You want me to say I failed?” she asked, straightening suddenly to look at him. Her voice was tight, and it was all she could do to keep it from shaking. “I did. Fucked up. Satisfied?”
“You didn’t fail,” Sasuke started, but was quickly cut off by Sakura barking a laugh that held to mirth.
“Someone dying in my care is literally a text-book example of failure,” she deadpanned, rolling her cup between her fingers.
Sasuke shook his head, “No one is perfect, and sometimes people cannot be saved.”
Sakura grit her teeth and pinned him with a stare. She could feel the flush of her cheeks, but she wasn’t sure if it was because of the drink or her misdirected anger.
“I cannot afford to be imperfect, Sasuke,” she spit. If the lack of honorific affected him, she wouldn’t know. She hated how good he was at being poised when she was constantly trying to keep herself from falling apart around him. “People put their lives in my hands. I’m supposed to fix them. I’m supposed to make sure they make it home. This patient... she was too young to die. It was a mission that shouldn’t have even gone wrong! And she was broken in a way I should have been able to... to fucking fix but I wasn’t. Now her family is left without their child, and a team of genin without their teammate. And that is the worst kind of pain and it’s my fault.”
Sakura felt a sick kind of satisfaction when he had the decency to flinch, “It’s not your fault.”
But she would be alive if I had been able to save her . She hugged herself, wondering if she would have to use enhanced strength to keep her heart together.
“It is,” she whispered. “I’ve healed worse injuries. I’ve brought people back from the brink of death, shinobi, civilians. I tried everything, but it was... it was too late. I should have been faster, tried using my seal but.... I didn’t, and then she was gone.”
Sasuke hand shot out to halt Sakura’s movements as she reached for the sake again. She shrank away like his touch burned, and it did . She thought she was past the days of Uchiha Sasuke being privy to her failures.
“Sakura,” he spoke softly, trying his best to catch her gaze. “You did the best you could. She was a shinobi. She was willing to give her life for her village.”
“Shinobi children are still fucking children,” Sakura spit out. “Life is short enough as it is for us. But she was a baby. And we are supposed to be at peace. It was my job to save her, to make sure she’d live to become a full-fledged shinobi. And I failed.”
Her voice had risen steadily as she spoke, before breaking into a broken whisper with the last of her words.
“It is a tragic loss,” Sasuke said. When Sakura glanced at his face, it looked like he was choosing his words carefully. “You’re the best medic in all five nations. If you weren’t able to save this girl, that means no one could have. You gave her the best chance she could have had.”
“I gave her nothing,” Sakura snapped, her words slurred with drink and pain. She clutched her chest. “She isn’t the first patient I’ve lost. I know it comes with the job, with being a shinobi but... sometimes I feel like the only thing I’m good at is losing people.”
This time she knew her words hit him. And it made her feel even worse, because she couldn’t apologize for a truth like this.
He opened his mouth to speak once she met his eyes, but Sakura cut him off briskly, “Sasuke-kun, just- go home. I just need to... sleep it off. I always take it hard when I can’t save a patient, but... you don’t need to worry about it. I’ll be okay.”
Sakura could feel the sting behind her eyeballs and the lump re-lodging itself in her throat. She knew it was only a matter of minutes before she fell apart, and she did not want to do it in front of this man she loved so dearly again . Not when he had endured traumas far past anyone’s understanding-- she didn’t want him to see how weak she still was.
Sakura attempted a reassuring smile. He shook his head, refusing to look away from her eyes. They stared at each other for a long time, and in that time the strained smile slipped from her face.
Just go , she pleaded internally. Those eyes of his, they saw everything. And she had made too many mistakes tonight; between the drink and the way she bared her body to him, it would only take a little for her to spread herself open again, for him to see everything she tried to hide inside. As his eyes moved intently over her face she wanted to cry, wanting him to look away because she knew he was seeing all the things that made him not want her before.
“I’m not leaving,” he said suddenly, his voice quiet. Before she could protest he pulled her back into his lap, locking his only arm around her waist.
“Sasuke-kun,” she pushed against his chest. “Why?”
There were so many reasons this did not make sense, because Sasuke the child wouldn’t have even been sitting there with her in her home, and Sasuke the man held no obligation to her, not this way. The arrangement they had didn’t call for this , and if she looked too closely at it, she knew her fragile heart would be in danger.
“Because you never left me,” he whispered, “and because I don’t want you to suffer alone.”
Sakura felt the moment her heart overtook her good senses. And she was weak, so very weak to throw her arms around his neck, clinging to him as the first sob ripped from her chest. She cried for the child who died in her arms and the one who died in her heart when she decided to dedicate her life to death in foreign fields and in white rooms with white walls and white lights. Sakura shivered, because she was stripped bare, naked in her shame and her grief. If not for Sasuke’s strong grip around her body, she was sure she would crumble into millions of pieces. When she felt Sasuke’s arm tighten around her waist, her heart stuttered and she cried harder, because it had been so long since someone held her when she felt like the force of her failures and her imperfection would break her apart.