various works by SeNMU
various works by SeNMU
Mental health is a privilege.
Being a POC doesn’t erase the privilege of mental health. Being queer doesn’t erase the privilege of mental health. Being neurodivergent doesn’t erase the privilege of mental health. Being disabled physically doesn’t erase the privilege of mental health. Being a religious minority doesn’t erase the privilege of mental health.
If you can recieve criticism without immediately going into a self-harm or suicidal state, that is a privilege. If you can go through the world without flashbanks, panic attacks, or intrusive thoughts on a regular basis, that is a privilege. If you can eat a meal and keep it down, that is a privilege. If you know what’s real in the world around you, that is a privilege.
This doesn’t erase all the other horrible things you face because of your minority statuses, and its not even about you in general. Mental health disorders don’t just affect how the world treats you, they affect how you respond to the world, and if you attempt suicide over insults of haven’t eaten in 3 days, unless the entire universe tries to appease you, it hardly matters.
I’m asking you to reblog this.
LOVE how it takes one (1) slightly bad thing happening for me to lose all touch with emotional control and start self harming again
toxic relationship and self harm tw!
just cut my now ex out of my life. maybe it was a rash decision but i can’t spend all of my time worrying about them anymore. as much as i loved them they were still terrifying. i wish i knew how to set boundaries and i wish i didn’t let it get this bad. i can be really stupid sometimes. now their name is a permanent scar on my ankle i cut over again and again but i can still see the outline of each letter. i remember that my name is tattooed on their hip bone, and a similar scar is on their arm. i just don’t want them to come for me. i just want them to leave me alone. i just want to be happy with other people that aren’t them. i hope they get help, i really do. but i hope they do it without me.
PSA: Getting angry at a self harmed for self harming… is one of the biggest triggers you can set off
cut hearts into my thighs today, feeling cute
i wonder if someone i love is going to see my scars and i wonder how they’re going to feel about it
i looked at my thighs today and they’re bad, covered
it looks horrible
there isn't any other place I can cut into wtf I will have to wait for these to heal and it will take like. Idk. 2 weeks and a half at best.
I have two mental health appointments today and I feel like they will both just be me crying and going “I’m so lonely and I hate being a lesbian I just want a community and a gf 😞😞😞😞😞 …… also I had a self harm breakdown and have been riddled with horrible OCD episodes……. BUT WOE IS ME IM A LONELY LESBIAN!! 🥺🥺”
sadism very easily translates into masochism ... all that is needed is some distance from oneself and the realization that you are just another person to make suffer
of course I care about you i named this one butterfly after you
i think one of the funniest/most insane things that ive ever experienced was when in around year 9 (8th grade) my school (catholic) did that thing where they bring in a guest speaker and so you’re in the assembly hall listening to them all day and have no work. and the guest was a christian mime artist. and we just had to watch him for a solid five hours. one of his acts was him playing an imaginary violin and miming slitting his wrists with the bow string while he chanted “going once… going twice… sold! my dignity… 🖤🥀⛓”. like first off i think the whole point of miming? mimery? as an art form is you know. not speaking. but also just what a fucked up thing to perform for a bunch of 13 year olds
everyday i wake up i care less and less, i hope one of these days im exhausted and apathetic enough to work up the courage and leave the world behind. that could be 50 tomorrows from today, or the 10th of next month. its the only thing i deeply look forward to anymore. itll be a relief when the last of my worries and attachments melt away and ill be ready.
today i'm two weeks clean from self-harm ♥️
Title: Like Gold
Summary: Sasuke grapples with love and intimacy regarding his developing relationship with Sakura after returning to the village from his journey of redemption. Kind of a character study on Sasuke handling an intimate relationship after dealing with PTSD and survivor’s guilt in solitude for so long. Blank period, canon-compliant, Sasuke-centric, lots of fluff and pining, slowly becomes a smut fest with feelings.
Disclaimer: I did not write Naruto. This is a fan-made piece solely created for entertainment purposes.
Rating: (eventual nsfw-ness)
AO3 Link - includes beginning/ending author's notes
Trigger Warning: Implied/Referenced Self-Harm
Chapter 5/?: Housewarming
Sasuke spars with Naruto for the better portion of the afternoon into evening, until they are both sufficiently exhausted and slightly sunburned, on the condition that he will eat anywhere but Ichiraku’s and anything but ramen for the dinner his friend is trying to goad him into after. Naruto agrees all too quickly, grinning too much for his liking, and saying a little duplicitously, “That so? Happens that I know a place!”
The blond refuses to tell him where he’s leading him after their fight finally concludes in a draw, weaving tiredly through village streets around six at night with bruised ribs. Sasuke begins to suspect it’s an elaborate ruse to lure him to his house to eat. Sure enough, eventually they turn a corner and marigold, cobalt, and fuchsia invade his line of vision.
“You’re so stupid. I’m not eating anything you’ve put your hands on.”
Naruto laughs, evidently not the slightest bit offended. “Don’t worry, Hinata-chan made me a bunch of food for the next few days! There’s more than enough to share, and I haven’t touched any of it.”
Sasuke grumbles, but his friend assures him that at least some of it’s not ramen, so he acquiesces cautiously and follows him through the threshold of his home.
It is pretty nice, as Sakura said, though he’s sure that’s because of the dobe’s wife and not him, and what he’s comparing it to - Naruto’s old apartment, littered with trash and expired food items in the fridge - doesn’t set a very high bar in the first place. The house has wood floors, and a spacious kitchen with plenty of storage, at least from what he discerns when he first walks in. He assumes he’s going to be forced on the tour shortly to view the rest of it.
There is an absolute mountain of pre-prepared food in clear containers when his friend opens the fridge. Sasuke will admit pretty much everything looks good, though he’s not sure what specifically the dobe plans on them eating. He’s not sure Naruto knows, either; he stares at the contents of the fridge for a long minute, squinting as if making a life-changing decision.
“...Does she think you can’t feed yourself or something?” Sasuke deadpans.
Naruto laughs nervously, in a way that gives Sasuke the impression that Hinata Uzumaki might not be as quiet and reserved as most people assume, at least behind closed doors. His friend almost sounds fearful, as if there may be consequences for him if he doesn’t eat what his wife has prepared for him in her absence in its entirety.
“...Or she just knows you’d eat instant ramen the whole time she was gone, otherwise.” This time it’s not a question.
Naruto has the grace to at least feign embarrassment. “Well, uh, you know what they say… Quickest way to a man’s heart is through his food, or whatever!” Sasuke wonders for a short few seconds what kind of repercussion Hinata could possibly be holding over him, but then remembers Kakashi’s warning earlier in the day, and decides abruptly that he doesn’t care to further pursue that train of thought.
Eventually they decide on vegetable and shrimp tempura with plain onigiri, all premade. Sasuke is hungry, and tempura has a high caloric intake. Naruto dumps the tempura in a mysterious device called an air fryer to warm, and while they wait, the blond shows him around.
It’s commodious, with extra bedrooms as Sakura said. Most of the furniture is rich dark wood, accented with slightly vibrant colors, inclusive of the walls, that are perhaps a little intense for his own preferences. It is obvious that Naruto helped pick the paint colors, but he assumes Hinata must like them, too. The Hyuga are an old clan, deeply rooted in tradition as the Uchiha had been; Sasuke imagines that many of the interiors at the Hyuga residences are varying shades of white, gray, or brown, also with darker wood, as many of the Uchiha households had been; a more colorful interior would have been a change for her. He supposes a proclivity for brightness makes sense, given that she’d married Naruto. Their house overall smells vaguely like jasmine blossom and nectarine, though not overbearingly so. Naruto’s apartment had never smelled like that, so it must be Hinata’s doing. Sasuke spies a candle the color of honey that might be the source, perched on a corner table.
It sits next to a framed copy of their original Team Seven group portrait. Sasuke eyes it as they pass through the living room again to the back door.
It opens up to a sizable backyard situated on the north side of the house, framed with a fence for privacy and a number of lush trees, dangling greenery swaying in the breeze. A small garden sits in the far back left corner, the area with the least tree cover; it’s been recently tilled and sowed, small sprouts beginning to poke through the soil.
“We get lots of fireflies back here in the summer. Hinata-chan loves them, so we sit back here all the time! She’s thinking of getting a birdbath, too.” Naruto mentions fondly, a bit more hushed than his usual timbre; he must have some good memories back here already.
“It’s nice.” Sasuke remarks at the end when they go back inside, because it is, and his friend grins from ear to ear, stupidly proud. Then the timer dings from the other room, and they eat.
Hinata’s cooking is good. Sasuke sorts out all of the sweet potato chunks to shove onto Naruto’s plate, but eats the rest: squash, bell peppers, eggplant, broccoli, and shrimp, coated in spiced breading that tastes slightly of rosemary, along with the onigiri, more simple but also filling.
Naruto prattles throughout as always, but chews his food before launching into each new topic; it really must be a habit by now. Sasuke doesn’t hold the scroll over his head just yet; he figures Saturday night will be enough opportunity for that. Instead, he solidifies plans for another spar, this time late Saturday morning, because through the nearly endless chatter he has learned that Naruto’s schedule includes normal weekend days off, unless assigned a mission.
The dobe asks him to go drinking with him afterwards; he declines, but thanks him for dinner. Eventually, he departs, after his best friend reminds him for the fourth time today to meet up at Ichiraku’s on Saturday night at six.
As he walks home, lone hand in his pocket, Sasuke finds himself pondering once again what Sakura’s living space will be like. She doesn’t strike him as someone who would like darker wood, for some reason. It’s an apartment, so it will be smaller than Naruto’s house for sure. He assumes it’s probably one bedroom, like his own.
The cadence of crickets creeps in again as he leaves the more lively area of town, buoyed into something quieter by the swishing of leaves through the trees. It’s a sound he craved on his travels often. There are similar sounds elsewhere - insects and trees are not uncommon - but something about Konoha’s particular lilt sticks out in his memories. A clement wind from the north carries an aroma tinged with flowers and loam. When he turns the corner, the breeze blows just right to shift his hair away from his left eye, and his neck heats as he thinks of Sakura’s words from this morning, not for the first time today.
Once he gets back to his apartment, he strips, then tosses his clothing directly into the washing machine, before enjoying a long, near-boiling shower; after the workout he’s had, he needs it. He thinks as he scrubs that this way he won’t need another one until after he gets back from seeing Sakura tomorrow. He contemplates whether they will eat somewhere, since he’s meeting her at the hospital at four. He’d liked the tea shop; she probably knows of other places worth trying.
He is so exhausted that he saves washing his dishes for tomorrow and falls asleep almost as soon as his head hits the pillow. His last thoughts are of gentle jade eyes and kind words murmured in an exam room.
Sasuke is thankful that he doesn’t have another nightmare, but his brain decides to fill the time in other demiurgic ways involving soft fingertips, and when morning comes, he does need another shower, after all; this time, a cold one.
He pinches his nose guiltily as frigid water engulfs him, until his teeth are near chattering. Once that’s done, he throws on a black shirt and pants before grabbing a book. He huddles up under his comforter to chase away the chill, drowning his thoughts in icy history ripe with distraction rather than lasciviousness.
He finishes it eventually, convinced towards the end that he needs to acquire a small lamp; he doesn't like overhead lighting in general, but he especially doesn’t like it for reading. His teeth have stopped clacking together, so he gets out of bed and spends the first portion of the day washing dishes, sharpening his chokuto, and then making lunch, seared beef with green tea noodles and miso dressing. It’s simple, but good, and filling. His throat hurts less than yesterday, but he has another cough drop after, because it helps.
He washes and dries the dishes from today, putting them away before he leaves his apartment to pick up a few more groceries to fill the time. The market he visits is sold out of loose leaf sencha tea; the one he’d visited the first day in his apartment hadn’t had any, either. He settles for a small box of single-serve packets for the time being, and has a cup upon his return to his apartment. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t taste quite as fresh. He reads more of his other book for a bit, until it’s time to leave to meet Sakura at the hospital.
He leaves a little early again, because he’s eager to see her.
Sakura greets him cheerily, lovely with a tote bag on her shoulder that is starting to become familiar. She tells him that she dropped off his paperwork earlier today, and that his bloodwork has all come back normal. He thanks her, and they spend a nice late afternoon together, roaming around while she points out areas of interest, most of it new development on the more southern part of the village. Wandering with her is much preferable to solivagant ambling on his own, he is coming to find.
He learns that Sunday and Monday are indeed her days off, unless there is an emergency; she mentions that she has a standing date with Ino every Monday morning for training and lunch, but other than that, she keeps her free time pretty open.
“Would you… like to do something on Sunday, then?” He asks carefully, hand twitching a little in his pocket and stomach churning a little in nervousness, though she has given him no reason to be. He hopes he’s not being avaricious by asking for too much of her time. She might prefer to spend some time alone on her days off.
Glittering green eyes beam up at him in response. “Of course,” she answers, and the storm brewing in his belly settles while the vines reach upwards into his chest cavity, because she says it with an inflection that implies there’s nothing she would rather do.
“I think it’s supposed to rain,” Sakura tells him as they walk further southwest; they’re nearing the edge of the village now. “So we probably don’t want to walk around too much. I usually…” Her eyes flick to him, and then away, as if self-conscious. “I usually curl up inside with a book on rainy days. Or... watch documentaries. Sometimes I play go or chess.”
A ghost of a smile overtakes him, because reading on a rainy day is very characteristic of her, but so are the other two things, which he hadn’t known.
Then she’s asking, somewhat shyly, “What do you like to do, on a rainy day?”
It’s a good question; he hasn’t been home for a rainy day in a long time. When he was traveling, he would find shelter - an inn, or the inside of a tree or a cave - and do various tasks that needed doing, like sharpening weapons or writing a letter to her. On those days, he would also often read her old correspondence to him, too, but he’d be embarrassed to admit that to her.
When he was younger, though, he would complete any neglected chores in the morning, and then spend the rest of the day reading, though he did it mainly for productivity to the point of distraction. Sasuke did not like being cooped up in his house for long periods of time, for obvious reasons. Occasionally he would venture to a training ground anyway, if the rain was more light drizzle than downpour, but most of the time he opted not to, because getting sick would delay his progress more than sitting out a day; he could advance in other ways, look into new techniques and practice taijutsu forms inside, if he really focused.
If it rained heavily for more than a day or two consecutively, though, trapping him in the house, he tended to struggle more with it. Sometimes he would stare at a kunai or shuriken left behind in Itachi’s room for too long, and end up sticking his wrist out a back window to watch the water cleanse the wound he’d carved into his skin until it coagulated. It wasn't something he did often, because he knew it was stupid and weak despite the small semblance of control it afforded. It also wasn’t something he only did when it was raining, but being entombed in that house due to inclement weather poured salt into his baser self-destructive tendencies, irritation burning until it was too much and it had to escape his skin to go somewhere. When it rained, it felt like it was an opportunity to rinse it out of him, a tiny increment of relief, rivulets reaching down to turn him over in the grave of dark wood and dull paint colors it felt like he was suffocating in.
Sasuke would go get groceries most of the time, before it got to that point, even if he didn't need them, just to get out of the house for a bit and away from the temptation. He’d come back soaked, tracking water everywhere before curling up in his bed to try to chase away the chill with more distraction, books or scrolls or trying to watch something. Eventually he’d warm up on the outside, but his insides still felt icy for a long time, most days.
He's in an apartment now, though, a long way from what used to be the Uchiha District. He takes a grounding breath that he hopes is subtle, trying to emerge from the glaucous recollection and subsequent smothering feeling lining his lungs. “...I do any chores that need doing, and then I like to read, too.” He finally answers. It's the truth, now. Keen but soft eyes hold his for a moment, and he worries maybe he didn’t fully succeed at the subtlety, but she doesn’t press. He’s thankful for it; he doesn’t want to think about that when he’s with her.
They make plans to have lunch and spend the afternoon reading their respective books at her apartment. He might finish his other book by Sunday’s end; maybe she would go to the library with him again Monday afternoon, if she’s not too busy. He wouldn’t mind playing go or chess, either, if she asks him. It would be a challenge; he hasn’t played either in years. He’ll save it for Sunday, though.
“I can cook,” she offers, looking very pleased, which makes his heart flutter in his chest. “Maybe soup and something to go with it, if it’s chillier? I have a slow cooker I can start it in, the morning of.”
He agrees immediately; he likes soup, and it’s been a while since he’s had a good bowl. Most of the soup he made on the road was limited to whatever ingredients were readily available, with simple water as stock. The result was usually something bland, warming but not hearty by even the barest standards; soup made in a kitchen is much better. He’ll eat any kind, really, especially if it’s cold out. He wonders what Sakura’s cooking is like; she excels at most everything she does, so he imagines it must be good.
By just after five, they’ve ended up at a fairly new and distinctive quadrant of training grounds a little beyond the southwest edge of the village, sharp quartz rock jutting up from uneven ground in several spots and a small creek running down its center. Parts of it sit at a raised elevation, offering a unique vantage point of Konoha. Sasuke realizes as he eyes the surroundings that he would like to train here sometime; the craggy terrain could prove an interesting element to contend with, an exercise of both the mind and body. He’s glad she showed him; he wouldn’t have ventured to this side of town for a long time, on his own.
“Are you hungry?” He asks, thinking he could buy her dinner if she knows any places nearby. It’ll be busier now that it’s dinner time, once they get back into the village, but he doesn’t mind.
Sakura doesn’t answer at first, and instead starts to fiddle inside her bag. His brows knit in confusion, but then she pulls out two bottles of water, two bento boxes, and two pairs of chopsticks.
They’re in reusable containers, not takeout ones, which means she must have made them herself. Sasuke stares at the one she gives him, dumbfounded; it’s filled to the brim with cooked rice topped with black sesame seeds, tonkatsu with sauce, shredded cabbage, green beans goma-ae, and a large number of tomato wedges. Her own has less tomato; a few grapes round it out instead. He also notices the tonkatsu sauce is already poured over hers, but his is in a small sealed container, so he can eat the pork plain if he decides he doesn’t care for the tangy but also slightly sweet dressing.
“I thought we could eat these here... if you want. We could avoid the dinner rush that way. I made the sauce a little less sweet than usual, but I still wasn’t sure, so I thought I’d let you decide.” Sakura offers, soft and kind. He’s too stunned to say anything right away, so she adds somewhat sheepishly, “If... you’d rather get something else, though, that’d be fine, too.”
He thanks her very quietly, then, a little dazed and throat closing up, because he would not rather get something else; he hasn’t had a bento in a long time, let alone one that was prepared specifically for him. The training ground is empty, so they hop up one of the small cliffs and eat it there as she suggests, in view of Hokage Rock framed by trees. It is very good, clearly made with fresh ingredients; the pork is juicy on the inside and texturally crunchy on the outside. The sauce is good, too; not too sweet. He makes sure to eat all of it, as well as to tell her he enjoyed it at the end. She flushes at the compliment; she is very pretty, pink hair and pink cheeks to match.
"How long do you think it'll be before Naruto's up there?" She asks him after they’ve been sitting there for the better part of an hour, food long finished and eerily echoing his thoughts from a few nights ago.
Sasuke regards the mountain, empty space next to Kakashi's likeness. He recalls dinner yesterday at his friend’s home, Naruto sharing food with him made by his wife, and Ichiraku’s the day before that, how he no longer talks with his mouth full, and how he has not pressured him to share about Sakura. Sasuke is sure his rare tact won't last forever, and that he'll be hounded about his relationship with her eventually, but he has appreciated the space gifted to him. For all of their teammate’s fatuousness, he really has grown. If he can get an increment better at deciphering scrolls...
"Not long." He responds eventually. "Five years. Maybe six, with the sculpting."
Sakura nods in agreement, an evocative smile playing at her lips; she must suppose the same.
He speculates, then, tearing his gaze away from her mouth, who else they will see on the mountain in their lifetimes, in the empty space extending to the right. He thinks Naruto is the type to live to be pretty old, especially if Hinata is coercing him into eating balanced nutritional meals now; he might make it to a point where he actually retires from being Hokage, like Tsunade, or Kakashi, eventually.
The next Hokage could be in the village already, maybe in the Academy still, or a Genin. Sasuke remembers a scrawny kid with atrocious camouflage techniques who used to follow Naruto around and challenge him to battles over the position; it may have been the Third's grandson. He hadn’t seemed particularly talented at the time, but then again, neither was Naruto at that age. It’s possible that the kid has progressed since then. It’s also possible, though, that the next Hokage has not even been born yet.
Sasuke walks Sakura home a couple of hours later, dark violet light of dusk cast on her through diamonds on her doorstep. Her expression is the same as the other night, eyes sparking with gold affection, so he kisses her again, hesitantly hoping it’s okay, because he really wants to. Apparently it is, because she rests her hands on his shoulders and kisses him back without an ounce of uncertainty. His hand is free this time, so he rests it on her waist carefully, and enjoys a sweet breath of spring.
Sasuke arrives at Ichiraku’s at six on the dot to find both of his teammates already there, with an empty seat left between them and three glasses of water on familiar currant red counters. He is unsurprised to see that Kakashi’s not here yet. There’s an empty seat to Naruto’s left that is clearly being saved for their old sensei using one of Naruto’s sandals, off his foot; it’s pretty busy, being a Saturday night. He also notes Sakura’s tote bag situated beneath the counter, underneath the stool she’s sitting on; perhaps her afternoon with Ino went longer than anticipated, and she hasn’t had time to go home yet.
Both of them turn their heads as he approaches, brightening and greeting him in unison beneath fluorescent lighting.
It is terribly nostalgic. He takes the place between them, responding, “Sakura. Dobe.” The streets themselves are busy, but within the actual enclosure of Ichiraku’s, it’s not as loud.
“We haven’t ordered yet.” Sakura tells him good-naturedly, smiling and pushing him a menu. His gaze lingers on her for a second before looking down at it. She’s pretty beneath fluorescent lighting, too.
“We’re not fucking waiting for Kakashi-sensei, though. I’m hungry , and who knows when he’ll turn up? He’s probably reading one of his stupid books and lost track of time again.” Naruto grumbles, peckish, from his other side. His friend’s stomach growls, as if on cue.
Sakura laughs, then sighs from his right. “He’s probably lost in a pile of paperwork. At least this time it might be true.”
“...He might be trying to finish breaking the cipher on that scroll you can’t seem to solve.” Sasuke quips smugly towards his left, eyeing the menu, though he doesn’t really need to; he knows his order already.
He is way too satisfied by Naruto’s huff. “Ugh, I’m fucking sick of staring at that thing. It makes me feel like my brain is melting. I wish he’d just give me a mission. I want to fight something.”
“I’m sure you’ll both get one eventually.” Sakura remarks with confidence. “Try to enjoy the peacetime a little. It’s a good thing. Besides, if you really want to, you can just go battle it out at the training grounds...” She eyes them both with a critical and calculating scrutiny now, a single pink brow arched and something in her tone shifting. “...Though by the bruising, I’m sure that’s already happened.”
There is a fist shaped smear of violet he knows is on his forearm, clearly visible from her vantage point. At least his ribs are hidden; there are nasty bruises on three of them from the first spar, and another two developing from this morning. Naruto looks a little scared, when he glances over at him; despite the fact that the blond is laughing nervously, his hand is held awkwardly, obviously trying to shield the bruise he has on his chin, turning purplish-blue by now.
It was another draw. Sasuke expects he’ll be able to beat him, next time. He’s found he’s a bit rusty, not having too many excuses to use his more advanced techniques in a long while.
Sakura rolls her eyes after a tense moment, and the spell is broken. “If either of you break anything, just don’t be stupid; come to the hospital or my place so I can fix it.”
“Sure, sure, anything you say, Sakura-chan!” The dobe responds next to him, hesitant laughter still tinged a little with fear. Sasuke nods, then thinks for about the fifth time today that he’s going to see her apartment tonight.
Once Sasuke slides the menu back, Naruto catches Teuchi’s attention; the blond orders garlic tonkotsu, Sasuke orders hakata tonkotsu, and Sakura orders shoyu ramen. It’s the same as what they used to get when they were kids.
It’s a nice evening for this, he thinks.
“So what’s new at the hospital, Sakura-chan?” Naruto asks conversationally. “Anything exciting?”
Sasuke shifts his gaze to his right, where Sakura looks as if she’s giving it a lot of thought, lips shifted to the side; he forces his eyes upward. “Eh, nothing too exciting, yet. Just appointments and research, for the most part. I’ve got some long-term projects I’m working on, but I’m just kind of waiting to see how the data pans out at this point while I monitor. It’ll be another month or so yet for anything concrete there, I think.” She cocks her head to the side a little. “I’ve got a transplant patient we’re waiting on an organ for, so we’ve been trying to prep her so she’s ready; different medicinal cocktails, testing, and such.” She pauses. “Tsunade-shishou sent over some things that arrived this morning, though, and one of them was a sample of a new poison found in a few Shinobi in Wind. I guess that’s… interesting. She’s going to work on it, too, so hopefully we get an antidote quickly, but I started some tests on it today.”
Sasuke’s lips turn downwards. That doesn’t sound good.
“Ehhh, between you and Granny Tsunade, I’m sure you’ll find an antidote soon!” Naruto chirps positively from his left. Then he quiets, in a manner that suggests he’s cogitative. “How bad?”
“Well, it’s slow enough progression-wise that they’ll live if we find an antidote in time; they’ve got at least a month, we think. Maybe more, if Tsunade-shishou keeps siphoning it out via the Delicate Illness Extraction Technique. It’s not... pleasant for the patient, obviously, but it works. She’s already run most of the preliminary tests; calcium chloride, pyridoxine, sodium bicarbonate, so we at least have some stuff ruled out.,, There might be others eventually, though, so it would be best to nip it in the bud and have an antidote readily available, really.”
“...What do you know about it so far?” Sasuke asks. “In terms of the type of toxin.” Having been dosed numerous times with poisons to build up resistance, he knows he is essentially immune to many of them, but a new one popping up is never something one should disregard in their line of work.
Jade shifts to him. “We suspect it might be a mixture of several venoms, plus a heavy neurotoxin. Epinephrine doesn’t work at all, though; that’s why we’re leaning towards it being a combo. Something has to be continuing the effects while that cycles through the system.”
Neurotoxins are troublesome; a mixture with it is nothing to scoff at. “It causes paralysis?” He questions.
Sakura inclines her head in a nod. “Immediately after Tsunade-shishou uses the Extraction Technique, though, they gain some movement back, so if we can find an antidote, it won’t be permanent.”
There is a contemplative silence.
“So what you’re saying is, you’re gonna kill a lot of rats.” Naruto finally jokes from his left, gauche as ever and clearly trying to lighten the mood.
“They’re mice, not rats.” Sakura responds, rolling her eyes. “But yes. We probably will. Necessary sacrifice, I suppose.”
There is a substantial length of time that feels heavy, even with the distant background noise of people going about their evening.
Sakura is the one to break it. “What about you, Naruto? Anything new? Hinata’s on a mission, I heard. What have you been doing to fill the time?”
Sasuke glances back to his left, where Naruto is grinning suspiciously.
“You mean other than kicking the shit out of teme?”
Sasuke narrows his eyes. “As I recall, both spars were draws, dead last .”
Naruto laughs, unbothered and waving his hand jokingly. “Eh, really I dunno. Mostly just helping Kakashi-sensei at the office. He’s torturing me with homework , since Hinata-chan’s gone.”
Suddenly their food is being placed in front of them. His smells good, charred pork belly swimming in spring onion, nori, mushrooms, noodles, and ginger. Sakura says thank you to Teuchi, and then he hears her break her chopsticks. She doesn’t miss a beat. “Hypothetical mission assemblages again?”
Naruto groans as he snaps his own chopsticks. “Yeah, it’s a nightmare . I know most of the people our age fine enough, but you basically have to memorize everyone’s abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, or you spend hours doing it because you have to refer to The Binder .” The way the dobe articulates The Binder makes it sound ominous.
“Huh. Now that I know it’s a nightmare, I’ll make sure to give you even more of it.” A familiar voice lilts behind them.
The three of them turn, and Kakashi is behind them, clad in simple Jonin dress instead of Hokage robes, for all appearances completely unbothered by the fact that he’s nearly twenty minutes late.
All three of them give him a withering look, slightly tinged with nostalgia, and say nothing.
“Sorry. Got lost in a pile of paperwork.”
Their old sensei removes Naruto’s shoe from his saved seat, and places it directly on the blond’s head. It promptly falls off and nearly lands in the idiot’s bowl of ramen as he splutters to catch it. Kakashi orders hakata tonkotsu without even glancing at the menu, same as Sasuke.
“So. Isn’t this nice.” The Hokage drawls. “How are we all? Enjoying the springtime?”
“It’s good! Hinata-chan planted a garden! We’re gonna have broccoli, and sweet potatoes, and maybe even pumpkin!” Naruto responds as he shoves his shoe unceremoniously back onto his foot before reaching for his chopsticks again.
“The weather has been nice.” Sakura pipes up from behind him, though her tone of voice makes it sound as though more than that has been nice. Something in him twists pleasantly.
“...It’s good.” Sasuke comments last, before taking another bite of his food. It’s an understatement.
Kakashi looks content, head nodding in agreement. “Everything’s really greening up. I think it’s going to be a good year. No wars on the horizon, either, at least that I know of; that’s always preferable. Gets one into a reflective headspace.”
“About what, having time to read porn in your office?” Naruto quips sarcastically in between inhaling bites of bean sprouts and noodles, though Kakashi doesn’t seem at all fazed. Sasuke hasn’t seen any orange books in the times he’s visited the Hokage’s office so far, but he’d been sure they were stowed somewhere within easy access.
“Can’t a Hokage take a break to enjoy fine literature once in a while?” Their old sensei asks good-naturedly, but Naruto rolls his eyes as Sasuke, and he assumes Sakura, continue to eat their food at a normal pace.
“Fine literature? As if ! You forget I’ve read all those books. They’re full of good ideas, sure, but they’re still fucking porn ! And anyways, no, you can’t take a break. Not when you’re piling homework on me like I’m in the Academy still. I know , by the way.”
Now Kakashi’s smile turns a little nervous. To most people, the change would be imperceptible, but it’s there for those that know him well. “Know what, exactly?”
The blond’s eyes narrow accusingly. “That you’re actually using my homework to put together squads for real fucking missions! I shouldn’t have to find out from Shikamaru. In the Academy, they expel kids for that shit.”
Judging by the caught expression on Kakashi’s face, there is at least some element of truth to this, which means Naruto must be doing an okay job, at the very least. Interesting .
“So a sensei isn’t allowed to appreciate and value the advice of a cherished student?”
“Whatever. Just keep giving me days off when Hinata-chan’s home and maybe I won’t tattle to the other kages.”
Kakashi smiles. “I can do that.”
There is a beat where everyone besides their sensei is quiet, taking a few bites of their food. Sasuke’s is good; he’s hungry. Going near all out against Naruto has given him a little more of an appetite, the past few days. He’s been trying to eat more, as Sakura suggested.
“Sakura, I received an interesting letter from Tsunade today.” Their old sensei drawls after a bit. Sasuke shifts slightly. She’s swallowing a bite, and looking curious.
“About the poison?”
Sasuke glances back to his left in time to see Kakashi nod. “The poison, and also other worthwhile projects. Let me know if you need any funding for such things, and I’ll find a way to take care of it.”
Sasuke wonders what kinds of projects, but assumes it might be rather confidential when Sakura blinks, then nods, answering simply, “Thank you, Kakashi-sensei; it’s greatly appreciated.” Perhaps it has to do with her research.
Naruto finishes off his first bowl, and orders another. Now that he’s not inhaling food, he begins chattering again.
“So anyways, when are you gonna send us all on a mission together again?! I feel like I’ve been trapped in that office with you like an old croney for eighty-four years.”
Suddenly Kakashi appears very tired, eyes narrowing in exhaustion. “If you feel trapped now, I’d hate to see how you feel in five years or so.” He pauses, as Naruto narrows his eyes at him and crosses his arms. “I have a lost cat mission you could complete, I suppose. Or would you rather clean up the river? It’s good weather for it. Water’s warming up.”
Naruto looks at him indignantly. “As if . I want a real mission!! One that suits our strengths.”
The way Kakashi considers Naruto then is fond. Sasuke vaguely recollects a time where Naruto begged the Third for a ‘real’ mission a long time ago; that must be what he’s remembering.
“Well, the problem with that is that Sakura formally outranks you.” He finally retorts. His food shows up a second after he finishes talking.
Naruto groans. “This shit again?” Sasuke assumes this must be a running thing Kakashi likes to hold over his friend’s head. Technically it’s correct; Sakura had told him she’d made Jonin at the exams in Earth Country a while back, in one of her earlier letters. He’s sure she could have made Jonin sooner, but she’d been occupied with things at the hospital, he thinks. Naruto and himself, meanwhile, had never taken the exams, though it hadn’t affected their ability to take A and S-rank missions, given their role in ending the war; they held honorary Jonin positioning in all but the actual title itself, and weren’t held back from missions because of it in any way, but still, Sakura is the only one of their team that has taken them officially and passed. Naruto had told him that Tsunade didn’t want to promote Sakura like that, despite her contribution in ending the war, too; he’d assumed it was because the Fifth didn’t care for Sakura’s promotion to be in any way weighed down by assumptions of nepotism, especially with her taking over the hospital. Kakashi hadn't, either; he'd assumed for the same reason. Naruto and Sasuke getting special treatment regarding what missions they can accept is fine, because currently they hold no official titles, but with Sakura heading the hospital. it’s a different matter.
“How many times are you gonna hold that over my head?! Quit fucking around already. It’s not my fault Granny Tsunade wanted to show Sakura-chan off to all five nations, and besides, I was literally there, so it’s not like I don’t know.”
Sasuke blinks in sudden interest, as Kakashi quips, “If you were there, why didn’t you take the exams yourself? I seem to remember someone getting banned from the Kage’s seating area. That looks great for a future Hokage candidate, by the way, and was fun to try to de-escalate with the elders of Earth Country. Maybe you could have set a better example if you had also been taking the exams… Though I suppose it would have been embarrassing for you when Sakura beat you in three seconds flat.”
Sakura laughs a little to his right as if she is amused as Naruto complains some more, while Sasuke considers that he has never been given a detailed account of her performance at those exams, though he’s sure it was excellent. He’ll have to ask her or Naruto about it.
Naruto’s still whining. “Come ooooon. Just ONE teensy little mission. No bullshit. We’re all back; you basically have to, it’d be illegal NOT to. It can even be a B-rank.”
Kakashi doesn’t miss a beat. “I have a nice C-rank you two could probably handle.” Sasuke twitches a little, because he knows that’s directed at him, too, now. “Simple escort to Sand. Don’t want to take a prestigious Jonin away from her important work at the hospital, though, for such a measly thing.”
Sakura’s laugh twinkles. “Send Shikamaru. I’m sure he’d love to go.”
Kakashi grins, as if he is in on a joke. “Yes, Naruto, Sasuke, and Shikamaru. That would be an interesting team, to say the least, though perhaps a little overpowered. I’ll think it over… If nothing comes up that we desperately need Shikamaru for, that is.”
Naruto grumbles and turns to finish emptying his second bowl of ramen as Sasuke surmises inwardly, finishing off his own, that it would be an interesting team, even if it was just an escort. From what he knows, Nara is a capable leader and excellent strategist. He’s sure Shikamaru doesn’t like him very much, which is more than fair, but watching Naruto annoy someone else for a change would make the heated trek to Sand bearable. He wonders what Sakura’s comment was about, though. Maybe it was sarcasm, regarding most peoples’ general disdain for the sweltering weather there.
Sasuke notices, as he pushes his bowl forward, now empty, that Kakashi still hasn’t touched his food. He makes a mental note to keep an eye on that. When he glances to his right, he sees that Sakura has finished hers, too.
The restaurant is starting to clear out a little, it being closer to seven now. Naruto finally stops mumbling insults towards Kakashi, and instead peers at him as if he’s waiting for something. Maybe he wants to go home; his friend might have plans after this, though he’s not sure what they would be, given his wife is away.
“...Sorry to disappoint you, Sasuke, but we’ve been less than honest about dinner tonight.” Kakashi begins after meeting Naruto’s gaze. Sasuke’s brow furrows in puzzlement, and the dobe starts grinning smugly. When he glances the other way towards Sakura, she smiles, too, and looks a little guilty.
“It is also… a housewarming party.” The Hokage grins. “Though we thought we’d just have it here, and you could take your gifts home with you tonight.”
Sasuke frowns. “You didn’t need to-”
Naruto butts in, indignant and cutting him off accusingly with a pointed finger, “And don’t even TRY to say no, because I got you the best gift.” Sasuke has a brief premonition of his sparse kitchen cabinets suddenly filled with a month’s supply of instant ramen, and it takes everything in him not to roll his eyes. The dobe motions to Teuchi, gesturing towards the inner portion of the ramen stand, just below the counter. Sasuke then recalls the bag beneath Sakura’s chair, and frowns deeper, turning to her; though he’s sure the shoe box was free, she’s already given him the drying rack, which he’s sure was not. She didn’t need to get him anything else.
She just grins at him, eyes flashing with mirth as if she finds this amusing. He’s about to say something - he’s not sure what - when Naruto taps him on the shoulder. He turns, and the most poorly wrapped gift he has ever seen in his life comes into focus, a long thin mess of too much tape and intensely colorful paper, scrunched together haphazardly as if put together by a child with little motor control, and shoved directly into his face.
“...Why did you wrap it?”
His best friend rolls his eyes. “Because it’s a PRESENT, jackass. Besides, you guys wrapped yours too, right?!”
When Naruto looks from their old sensei to their teammate, Kakashi wears a jovial smile that tells him he didn’t, and Sakura doesn’t say anything behind him, but Naruto narrows his eyes, and that’s enough to tell him that she didn’t, either. “What the fuck, you guys are the worst! This is supposed to be a party!!”
Naruto sets the gift down on the counter in front of him, and Sasuke frowns at it stubbornly for a short while. The three of them are staring at him expectantly, though, so he sighs and reluctantly starts to peel the shoddy wrapping job away, curious as to where the idiot got instant ramen that comes in a long skinny box. He’s careful as he peels, so the paper doesn’t fly away in little chunks and litter the restaurant or the ground around them.
His brow creases as he peels away the final bit of paper and tape, because it’s not ramen, after all. Naruto’s gift is a paring board of a unique design, new from the store in an unopened box. The picture shows a maple wood finish, but with small skewers jutting vertically from it on the bottom center, on which one can spear vegetables or fruit to help hold it in place while slicing. It also has a corner guard on the upper left with an edge sealer to help keep other things one wants to slice, like bread or sushi, secure. In addition, it says it has silicone feet, so it doesn’t move around when you use it.
He didn’t know anything like this even existed. It is a surprisingly thoughtful and helpful gift, one that he’s sure comes from a deep understanding of the challenges that come with living with one arm, though Naruto has had the prosthetic, now, for a while.
Sasuke studies it for a long moment, genuinely touched. “...It’s nice. Thank you.” Truth be told, it’s more than nice, and will be incredibly useful. He won’t have to summon a clone anymore to cut things.
Naruto laughs and slaps him on the back, prompting Sasuke to glare at him. “Beat that, losers!” Kakashi smiles and casts his eye towards Sakura behind him, so Sasuke turns, brows furrowed again. She’s pulling a white container out of her bag, now in her lap, and then sliding it on the countertop next to Naruto’s gift.
He can see now that it’s a first aid kit. He looks back to her, meeting green eyes and slightly tinged cheeks. “I thought there might be some things you didn’t have, after traveling for so long.”
This is odd, because all ninja travel with a rudimentary first aid kit at the bare minimum, and Sakura of all people knows this; it’s an occupational hazard and frankly foolish not to. He stares at it as if it is a riddle, trying to figure out what could possibly be inside. Perhaps medicine or painkillers? Even those come in standard first aid kits for ninja, though. A hefty stock of food pills? He supposes he could take those on missions with him, if needed.
He’s sure both Kakashi and Naruto are thinking the same thing, but they don’t comment on it.
Finally, he responds, meeting her eyes. “Thank you.” He’ll open it later, when he’s alone, to see what’s actually in it. She really didn’t need to get him anything.
Her smile grows wider, and her eyes catch the light, gilded fervor that he thinks he could drown in. “You’re welcome.” After a beat, she glances at Kakashi, so Sasuke tears his irises away from flashing jade iridescent with metallic lambency and turns, too. When he does, he sees that Kakashi’s bowl is now empty. He tries to resist an annoyed twitch; he doesn’t know how he keeps pulling this off, after so many years.
Then his old sensei reaches into his vest and pulls out what appears to be a frame; it must have been tucked there this whole time, for safekeeping, out of sight.
When he reaches past Naruto to gift it to him, Sasuke realizes it’s their original Team Seven picture, in the frame he saw sitting on Kakashi’s desk the other day.
His eyes sting as it’s pressed into his hand, thoughts of mask hypervigilance forgotten in an instant in favor of an overwhelming sense of plenary peace and belonging. There is a small inner voice emanating from a house lined with dark wood and darker penchants, gnawing and protesting that he is deeply undeserving, but he extinguishes it for now, just for tonight; the world is not going to end because Kakashi gave him a picture rife with memories. Fighting to remain detached is what got him into trouble in the first place.
Sasuke blinks a few times, and a paper-thin layer of sediment peels away, messy and getting everywhere, like the wrapping paper he tried to collect earlier to avoid a similar problem. Then he utters, “Thank you,” quietly, but loud enough for all three of them to hear.
“No problem. I can get another copy developed from the village archives for my desk.” Kakashi replies, smiling. “It’s good to have you back.”
Time passes somehow both quickly and slowly. The four of them sit there for well over another hour, visiting casually about topics that aren’t as heavy as perplexing poisons. Sasuke moreso listens than genuinely communicates, but he comments every now and then.
Naruto chatters about an elaborate date he’s going to take Hinata on when she gets back to the village, involving feeding ducks at her favorite pond. Sakura mentions that he should bring cinnamon rolls, because that is Hinata’s favorite treat, and Naruto exclaims that he knows, but he also asks Teuchi for a pen to write a reminder on his hand, so he doesn’t forget to pick them up the day after tomorrow when she’s supposed to get back.
Kakashi mentions how he’s supposed to be getting some new mission requests in on Monday morning, so he might have something for Sasuke by then; the dobe is indignant when it doesn’t also include him, and launches into another five minute whining session.
Sakura tells a story about Sai and a misunderstanding involving an order of art supplies that she heard from Ino that morning; apparently, Ino works at the hospital on occasion, both to do some part-time medic duties and to help Sakura, which Sasuke was unaware of. Naruto shudders when Sakura brings up Sai, Ino, and art supplies; Sasuke gets the distinct impression that there is a story there, but doesn’t ask.
It is a little after eight when Kakashi mentions quite astutely that everyone is probably tired and should get going. Naruto laughs mischievously, then, meeting Sasuke’s eyes.
“Teme, what do ya say to all of us going out for a drink or two after this? There’s a fun place just down the road from here.”
Sasuke blinks, because that sounds objectively terrible on any night, let alone a Saturday, and it is not the first time since his return to the village that Naruto has mentioned going to drink; he really wants to get him drunk for some reason. Even though Kakashi has just said they should wrap it up, he looks at Sasuke as if waiting for a response anyways, as though he would actually go with them if they all chose to.
“Can’t. I have plans.”
Naruto huffs and grumbles under his breath about the plans probably involving training or reading or watching his laundry air dry. “Alright, alright. But you can’t escape it forever. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to accept.”
Sasuke smirks, then. “If you can beat me in a spar, I’ll go. Dobe.”
A fire has been lit in blue eyes. “You’re ON.”
Kakashi then sets enough money on the counter for all four of them, at which point they all begin to stand. Sasuke and Sakura both say thank you, but Naruto begins protesting that if he knew he was buying, he would have eaten more. Kakashi smiles cryptically. “Which is why I didn’t tell you. The Hokage position pays lucratively, but I know from experience you’ll eat me out of house and home.”
Naruto and Kakashi wave goodbye and set out to the west, in the general direction of their respective residences. Sasuke and Sakura both watch them go with something like amusement; he can hear Naruto complaining until he’s halfway down the street, which is a feat, because this area of town is still quite busy.
He turns to the gifts and stacks them carefully in preparation to leave, finally; they are all flat, so they’ll be easy enough to carry. They really didn’t need to get him anything... but he is appreciative, gaze lingering on them for a little longer than an instant.
Sakura is smiling at him when he turns to her, weight shifted to the side casually. “Do you want to drop those off first, or bring them with you?”
Sasuke thinks of the time; he still doesn’t know when she usually goes to sleep. “...I can bring them with.”
Her lips quirk upwards more, and she nods. They start walking east, him gripping the gifts carefully.
The moon has risen a bit higher in the sky by now; the streets appear much like a desaturated dreamscape, cloaking everything in a layer of alleviation. They pass under street lights casting flaxen ambiance, as well as other smaller hints of glow from various lit-up signage, tinctorial flashes washing over them both occasionally, only to be rinsed clean as they pass into astronomical dusk again. Sakura’s hair is surprisingly reflectant, brief notes of neons catching atop pale pink: electric blue, candy red, apple green.
“Naruto’s going to hold you to that bet, you know.” Sakura pipes up to his right once they’ve made it a block away, tilting her head upwards, expression soaked with mirth.
“Tch. Don’t remind me.” She laughs a little in response. It’s a lovely sound, dulcet in his ears.
They’re coming up on a bar that appears to be pretty crowded, people spilling out onto the street outside. Wordlessly, they both change course to cross to the other side of the street, avoiding the gathering of people, for which he is appreciative; he’s still not much one for crowds. They’re almost to the main stretch of road where they’ll turn south to go to Sakura’s; just two more blocks and the people should disperse a bit.
As they cross, Sakura informs him, “I’m pretty sure that’s the one he was talking about, by the way.”
“...Great.” He murmurs, frowning. He really doesn’t drink often. A place like that wouldn’t do much to encourage him to.
“It’s not so bad, if you go on a weeknight. Less people.”
He considers, then questions, “...Have you gone drinking with him?”
She averts her eyes, as if she’s a little embarrassed. “A few times... Usually it’s for celebrations, though, not just us. Birthdays, that sort of thing. I’ve gone with Ino more.” She ponders for a bit longer, as if shuffling through memories. “I guess I’ve gone with him and Kakashi-sensei a couple of times, though we don’t always go to that one. Once we went with Tsunade-shishou to that casino.”
Sasuke is pretty sure he knows the answer to his next question, but he asks it anyway. “...Is he any good at gambling?”
A short but rich giggle blooms from her throat that makes his lip twitch upwards. “No. His betting history is just as bad as shishou. He’s worse at baccarat than she is, actually, which is quite an accomplishment. She hadn’t won in a long time, before she beat him.”
It stands to reason that Naruto would be bad at table games, but the fact that he’s bad at arguably one of the easiest ones to learn amuses him more than it should. “...Will probably be awhile before I get dragged with him, then.”
“Probably.” Sakura agrees.
They turn south towards her apartment, and sure enough, the people milling about in the streets begin to thin. Being a Saturday night, there are more lights on than usual around this time, but they’ve arrived into an area of town that doesn’t really cater to a night crowd like bars do; the lit windows here are mostly residential.
Plants are continuing to unfurl everywhere in Konoha, though the rain tomorrow will probably be good for them. It stands to reason that it will get even more lush, after; perennials are starting to bud back to life, soon to join the annuals already adorning most buildings’ exteriors and windowsills. There’s a breeze picking up tonight, too, slightly shuffling leaves and the fabric of awnings attached to the buildings they walk past, a quiescent whispering that seemingly drowns out the usual sound of crickets. It might be cold enough for soup tomorrow; he’s looking forward to it.
Sakura notices, too. “Kakashi was right; everything is greening up. The rain will do some good tomorrow; we haven’t had some in a bit.”
“...Probably.” He echoes her words from earlier. Her hair is fluttering a little in the wind, too, eye-catching and gossamery. Sasuke wonders if it’s still soft like silk. He had accidentally felt it several times, on various missions when they were younger.
They reach her building, and she noiselessly opens the glass door for him. Sasuke steps aside so she can pass after she shuts it behind them. Then he’s following her up the stairway, something like anticipation unfurling in him, much like the greenery he noticed on the way here.
Sakura unlocks her door, glancing back at him for a moment with her hand lingering on the doorknob. Then she turns to push it open, and he trails behind her carefully.
He follows her into a small enclosed area - a dedicated entryway - with a threshold straight ahead leading into the rest of the space. It is dim until Sakura flips on the light of a compact but surprisingly luminous lamp to their right, and he sees that the entryway area itself is painted the color of pale cream. The floor beneath them is aged wood, light in color, that appears to extend into the rest of the dwelling. A single wall-mounted shelf floats to the left that holds several multifarious storage containers: one woven, one white, one that looks like an antiquated rice basket. Out of the top of the last one peeks the well-worn handle of a spade; it must be gardening supplies. Beneath the shelf are hooks studded to the wall; Sakura is stepping towards them to shrug off her bag and hang it from one of them, next to a green jacket and a red and pink coat with fur trim.
There is a console table made of aged wood that near matches the shelf - white oak, he thinks, because it’s not as richly colored as normal oak - to the right. It might be an antique; it is close in color and stain to the flooring, though not an exact match. Her fiction book from the other day sits atop it, a bookmark protruding from around halfway through its pages; he assumes she must keep any non-work-related library books there, when she’s not reading them. Beneath the table is a patterned rug in neutral tones, on which rest a small collection of sandals that are not entirely lined up straight, as well as a pair of green rainboots. It is the only part of the entryway that does not appear overly organized.
Sasuke begins to toe off his sandals as Sakura does, too. She crosses over to the table and opens up one of the drawers, placing her lanyard of keys inside. “You can set your gifts here, if you’d like.” She offers helpfully, gesturing to the table and sounding almost shy, so he does. He turns to grab his sandals and sets them neatly on the rug beneath the table.
She reaches beyond the enclosing wall to the other side, flipping what must be a lightswitch; the rest of the overhead lights in the next area of space flood on. She angles her head back towards him, shifting her weight to the side a little. “I’m afraid it won’t be as long of a tour as Naruto’s.”
It’s small, but cozy. They step into an open space with a wall trailing to the right and openness extending to the left, which houses her living room. The ceilings are high for an apartment this size; it makes it feel bigger. Two towering bookshelves line the west and south walls, and a small dining table sits in front of the window on the north end, over which hangs a simple but worn pendant light, sap green in color; it is reminiscent of the kinds one usually sees at indoor markets. Between the two spaces lies a comfortable-looking sage green couch, classic but also well-worn, placed in front of a small entertainment center. He notices that the furniture pieces are all of slightly different construction, not a matching set, though the colors of everything are very similar to the flooring. On top of the surfaces are various decorative knick knacks: little glass jars in varied colors with dried flowers, another lamp, a candle. The entire open area is painted a pale, pale desaturated viridian; Sasuke likes the color. From what he can see of the room past the expanse of wall to their right, it is painted a different color - linen white.
“Sai and Ino helped me with the paint colors when I moved in.” She pauses. “Well, Sai helped. Ino mostly just helped narrow down color selection. It needed painting anyways; my landlady said I could do pretty much anything as long as it wasn’t black or something.” She walks over to the lamp on the end table by the sofa, and switches it on. Then she wanders over to switch the pendant light over the table on, too.
Sasuke nods, still absorbing. There is an expanse of framed photos to his right, on the space leading up to what must be the kitchen. There are many, leading all the way down the wall, arranged in more of a collage fashion than straight across. He scans them quickly, and is surprised to see that their original Team Seven photo isn't among them. He knows it must be elsewhere in her apartment; she is too sentimental to not have it displayed somewhere. It makes him consider where he’s going to put the one Kakashi has given him.
“The layout is kind of unique.” Sakura continues, walking back towards him through the living room area. “There’s not really room for a dining table in the kitchen, so that table over there-” She motions towards where she just was, in front of the north window, “-is used for that. It’s kind of nice, that way; you can look out the window when you eat.” Sasuke notes upon further inspection that there are a few small plants sitting in the window there, similar coloring to the ones on her doorstep. A thriving jasmine plant is hung higher up, against the glass, fronds twisting downwards. He finds he can picture Sakura eating there easily.
Sakura crosses over into what he assumes is the kitchen; he follows, and notes as he does so that there is a faint aroma of tea, though it is a challenge to place the flavor. It’s simple, but with nice floor to ceiling white cabinetry, aside from a single area in the corner where there is open shelving of the same wood finish, as well as a window on the east wall, over the sink. This one appears to be lined with a small herb garden, more mismatched terracotta pots perched in the windowsill. The countertops here are also wood, in a similar colorway as the rest of the wood he’s seen so far. Most of what’s stored on the open shelving appears to be general dry goods, flour and sugar and oatmeal in clear containers. There is also a fern-colored teapot, decorated with a white floral design, sitting on the end of the shelf for easiest access; she must make tea often. There is a knife set on the counter, as well as a few ceramic containers holding various utensils such as whisks and wooden spoons. Nothing appears out of place, and there are no dishes in the sink; she must keep it pretty tidy. In the only empty corner, there is what he assumes is a pantry door, as well as a small wooden stool. He realizes then that she must not be tall enough to reach the top of the cupboards.
“Sai said keeping it a lighter color would make it look bigger. I think it helps. It’s pretty nice, otherwise.” She glances at him, then away, slightly flushed as if she’s nervous. He realizes, reciprocally, that he is kind of nervous, too, being in her space with her alone.
“Not much left but the hallway.” She adds after a moment, leading him out of the kitchen and further, to a hallway leading east. There are three doors towards the end of it; one to the left, one in the middle, and one to the right. Two of the three are sitting open; the small room straight ahead holds a stacked washer and dryer, as well as cabinets that match the ones in the kitchen. Once he follows her a few more steps, he sees a hamper, as well. The walls appear to be painted a lilac color in the laundry room, slightly darker in hue than the rest of her space thus far. The flooring is different, too, in the laundry room; a white tile, inlaid with a touch of black sparingly in a symmetrical pattern. The style of it is very in tune with the age of the building, reminiscent of an older time.
“Left door is the bedroom.” She gestures towards the closed door, then points to the next one. “Middle is the laundry room; that’s also where I keep any cleaning stuff, like the broom or mop.” She nods then towards the bathroom, so he steps closer to peer inside; it is painted a light sand color, with the same white tile accented with black, only here it also goes halfway up the wall. “And that’s the bathroom.” The same white cabinets appear here, too. It has a tub/shower combination, and a plain white shower curtain. It appears spotlessly clean. A window lies above the sink on the east wall, with another hanging plant dangling in front of it, towards the corner so it’s not in full light all of the time; it looks like a satin pothos. There is also a small wicker stool, on which are folded powder-white towels, and a small glass tabletop lamp, an interesting statement in a bathroom.
He remembers that there are three lamps she’s turned on already. She must not like hard lighting. He tries to resist the urge to smile, because neither does he.
“It’s nice.” He compliments as they make their way back to the living room area. It’s more than nice; he really likes it. Everything about it is as her as he expected it to be, more of a home than an apartment, eclectic combinations painting a picture very indicative of the life she lives here. Sasuke muses that it is especially characteristic of her that she would like different colors throughout the rooms, and that the colors fit their respective spaces well. He finds himself wondering what color she selected for her room, what color she deemed the most calming, though obviously he would never ask.
A deep blush inks it way onto her skin, and she smiles, seeming very pleased. “Thank you, Sasuke-kun.” Her gaze flits away, then back again. “Would you want to maybe watch something? I could make some tea, decaf, if you’d like.”
“Okay; I can show you what I have.”
They go back into the kitchen. She opens one of the cabinets, the one nearest the teapot; the entire bottom shelf is filled with packaged tea, labeled jars of loose leaf, sugar, and a container of honey. The shelf above it contains teacups that match the teapot, and more jars of loose leaf, though these ones are labeled caffeine free. There are a few small boxes of packaged tea there, too; she must sort them separately based on caffeine content. The third shelf contains a few miscellaneous mugs and glasses. It’s quite a collection; he understands the mixed aromatics of different tea flavors he noticed earlier. It’s unique, enjoyable without being overwhelming, small hints of sweet spice and citrus drifting into the kitchen space more now that the cabinet door is ajar.
“Most of my packaged teas have more specific flavors, desserts and things like that.” Sakura mentions. “For loose leaf, I’ve got quite a few; caffeine-free ones are oolong, chamomile, lemon ginger, jasmine…” She shifts some of the jars to the side of the middle cabinet to reveal the ones behind it. “Silver needle, white coconut creme, Earl Grey, caramelized pear…”
“...Earl Grey sounds good.” Sasuke murmurs, moving slightly out of the way. She tips her head in acknowledgment before pulling that jar down, then reaching for the teapot.
“I’ll make some; I like Earl Grey at night. Do you want any cream or lemon or anything like that in yours? I have some in the fridge.” She moves to start the water boiling, removing the strainer from the teapot before she fills it. After it’s on the stove, she begins sifting loose leaf from the jar into the strainer so it’s ready.
“...Lemon would be good.” He likes adding lemon to Earl Grey; it makes it more tart. He feels like he should help, so he adds, “I’ll get it. Do you want cream in yours?”
Jade eyes flick to his, and her cheeks color a little. “...Yes. It’s on the top shelf of the door. There’s…” She pauses, as if embarrassed. “There’s normal creamer there too, but I have a coconut milk sweet cream that I like with mine. Just a little bit. It’s… meant for coffee, but…” When he smiles knowingly back, she looks away, back towards the teapot.
He opens the fridge; it’s extremely well-stocked. He doesn’t hover too long before he reaches to grab a lemon and the creamer she mentioned from the door’s upper shelf, but he notes there is a large container of strawberry topping on the top shelf towards the front, as well as a clear container with what may be banana nut muffins. She really does have a sweet tooth, he thinks, amused.
He shuts the door, and she procures a small cutting board from another cupboard and a knife to slice the lemon into wedges. She’s also grabbed two teacups, the ones that match the teapot.
“Thank you.” She’s smiling as he sets down the lemon and the creamer. “I can finish making this, if you want to maybe pick what we watch?”
“...What would you like to watch?”
Sakura blinks. “I’m honestly fine with anything. I’ve got some movies in the cabinet of the entertainment center… Otherwise I have cable to flip through, too.”
She must not go to bed too early, since she mentioned movies. He decides to ask. “...When do you usually go to bed?”
Something in her eyes softens. “Usually ten or eleven. It’s my weekend now, though, so I can stay up late, if you pick something longer.”
He nods, and she turns to slice the lemon halves into quarters, so he pads back to her living room. When he opens the cabinet below the television, he finds it nearly filled to the brim with movies. He settles down to siphon through them, skimming through various synopses. He comes across five or six shoved to the corner of one side haphazardly; those must be the ‘bad’ movies she watches with Ino. The rest of them that he finds sound fairly interesting. He ultimately picks one called A Tale of Archery; the summary makes it sound like a period drama with a twist. As he sits there, he tries to remember the last time he watched a movie; it was probably after he returned to Konoha but before he left for his journey, a rather stupid one with Naruto in his old apartment.
This one should be better. He hopes, brows furrowed, that it’s one she likes; he assumes she must like most of them, given that she owns them.
Sasuke stands with it as Sakura comes out with the tea, cups placed on small plates with dainty teaspoons. “Oh, that’s a good one,” she mentions. His heart flutters, and he feels a little less nervous. He puts it into the player on the next shelf before standing as she sets her plate and cup on her coffee table.
“Thank you,” he says softly when she hands him his, two slices of lemon perched on the side.
She smiles at him, dimple appearing, before grabbing the remote and flicking on the television so it starts setting up. “Do you mind if I shut off the overhead lights? I’m... not much one for hard lighting.”
“Not at all.” The space will be well-lit without it, with the lamps.
He takes a seat on the sofa while she walks over near the entryway. Sasuke realizes now that the couch isn’t terribly big; probably just enough for one person to lie down on, if they wanted to. It’s comfortable, as he’d anticipated. He sets his plate and cup on her coffee table so he can squeeze the lemon wedge into it, grabbing the spoon to stir as the overhead lights go out.
With the lights off, it is very cozy.
Sakura takes a seat next to him, not too close, but not the furthest away she could be, either. She fast forwards through the opening portion of advertisements as he stirs.
By the time he brings the cup to his lips to take a sip, the opening credits are playing. She sets down the remote and stirs her own cup once more, before also taking a sip.
It’s good; flavorful but not too intense, with a hint of bergamot orange rind and maltiness. The lemon gives it a slightly more acidic twist. He’s not much one for creamer, unless he’s in a rare mood on a cold fall or winter day, but he can see how the coconut milk sweet cream would compliment the taste, if one liked sweet things.
“It’s good.” He murmurs, meeting her eyes for a moment.
She glows at the compliment; he can make out a blush in the dim lighting. He feels his own neck heat up.
The movie is pretty good. It tells the story of a bygone feudal era a long time ago, peasants and samurai and daimyos with estates sprawling across countrysides lined with rice paddies. An archer passes away, and his son follows in his footsteps and becomes respected competitively. The twist is that the father actually went into hiding, and returns at the end of the movie.
It’s close to eleven when it’s over. Their teacups sit on her coffee table, long emptied.
Sasuke feels very content, and a little loath to leave, if he’s being honest. She seems slightly tired when she meets his eyes, though, so he slowly stands and reaches for his plate and cup. She does the same, and he trails after her to the kitchen, following her lead; she empties the lemon rinds into the garbage, so he does too. She then rinses her cup clean in the sink, extending her hand for his after.
“...What time should I come over tomorrow?” He asks in a hushed tone, when she turns to him. He’s not sure if the walls are thin or not, and they’re in the kitchen, so it’s not against her neighbors’ unit or anything, but he still somehow feels he should speak quietly; it’s somewhat dark, dimly lit only by cast light from the lamp in the other room.
Her countenance changes to one of consideration. “I was thinking maybe around eleven? I should have lunch ready around then.” Her eyes flicker to his, and her lips curve upwards; he tries not to look at them too long. “If that’s okay.”
He nods. “I’ll be here, then.”
Her lips curve upwards more. “I’ll walk you to the door,” she offers softly. He turns, and she follows.
“Do you like avocado?” She asks him as they shuffle into her entryway, where he stoops to retrieve his shoes. “I was… thinking about making avocado grilled cheese, to go with the soup.”
He glances upwards. “...I do.” He’s never had a grilled cheese sandwich with avocado before, but it sounds like it would taste good. He wonders again what kind of soup she’ll make; she knows his food preferences well, and she hasn’t asked, so it must be something she knows he’ll like. It makes his heart flip behind his ribcage a little.
“Oh, good. I’ll make that, then.” Her eyes drop down to her feet for a second as he rises back to his full height, sandals situated; it’s hard to tell in the lack of light, just the one lamp turned on in here, but he’s pretty sure she’s blushing again.
Her next words are near a whisper. “Thank you for… hanging out.” Multi-faceted jade seeps into him again, seafoam ebbing around dark pupils. He doesn’t think he’ll ever tire of it, after yearning for it for so long. “I had a nice time.”
He takes a quiet step closer to her, heart suddenly twisting in his chest as he tries to swallow his nerves, because she looks so happy, and it’s making his breath get stuck inside his lungs.
“...Me, too.” He whispers, barely audible before his lips brush hers gently.
It feels different, kissing her in the privacy of her apartment rather than on her doorstep. It’s like they can finally take their time, no real chance of interruption. His mind comes up with the word intimate, and his neck warms. Her mouth is all plush affection, bergamot and lemon and a subtle sweetness, stirred, that isn’t too much, accented by berry. It makes him want to try all of the varieties she has in her cabinet, even the sweet ones, just to see what they taste like on her lips in the hours that follow.
Delicate hands brush his shoulders, fingertips skimming the lower part of his neck, subtle beckoning but also gentle, respectful of boundaries, so he decides to corrode, give in and do something that he has wanted to do for a very long time. He cups her cheek with his hand, careful and barely there, gingerly sweeping a thumb over flushed skin, gliding atop a freckle that rests further back on her cheekbone. He’s had it memorized since they were kids.
The strands of pink he inadvertently touches are as soft as he remembers.
Her face is ablaze when they draw back from each other, tender smile and viridescent eyes laced with ardency just for him. Warmth pools in his belly as he studies her, decay long soothed and forgotten as he carefully strokes her cheek once more before he pulls away.
“...Good night, Sakura.”
The dimple makes one last appearance for the evening. “Good night, Sasuke-kun.”
Sasuke opens the first aid kit upon his return to his apartment, having been curious about what was in it all evening. Vines grasp his heartstrings as he discovers what’s inside.
There are two jars of loose leaf sencha tea that he’s sure came from the tea place they’d visited together a few days ago; one is labeled caffeinated, the other decaffeinated. Along with it is a basic tea infuser, new in its package. There are also three blue packages of cough drops, mentho-lyptus flavor, so they won’t be sweet.
Jade irises, he thinks, are also mollifying, for when the corrosion is done, an aether easily risen into, floating to the top.
Sasuke brews a mug of the jar labeled decaffeinated to enjoy before he goes to bed, a helpful succedaneum with which to conclude an evening well spent. It's not exactly the same shade of green, he thinks, before taking it to his living room so he can look out his window as he savors it, but it's close.
Who thought feelings could be so intense