Focused on the Now
1 The Return
“I like…” the young, pink-haired girl’s emerald eyes darted to the indifferent hottie sitting next to her as Sakura Haruno giggled into her hands like a little kid. “My hobbies are…” Again she let loose one of her girlie little giggles. “My dream is…” Again she couldn’t get anything out. “I hate Naruto!” Finally she had finished a sentence.
“Sasuke, would you like to go train together?” Sakura tried yet again to get the boy of her dreams to do something with her, and since they were on the same team, it was a prime excuse to get some quality time with him.
“No, you’re annoying,” the boy spat at her with no regards to her feelings as he pushed passed her and continued down the lonely road.
“Sasuke, please don’t leave me,” her eyes were filled with tears and no amount of blinking them back could stop the waterworks. “Take me with you!” she begged like a little kid, though she didn’t care as long as she was with him. “I love you!” she professed her undying feelings for the young Uchiha boy. She cared not how childish she sounded. The only thing that mattered was him.
Now- Age 20
He stepped into the gates of Konoha again for the first time in years, though he had had many opportunities to come back. Time had changed nothing in the small village. Sure, the faces were older, but they were the same people.
After he was out of Orochimaru’s clutches, Sasuke had traveled around and seent eh country, prolonging his visit back home. There was only one reason he came back, though he would tell no one what that was: HER.
Though his wardrobe had changed- he still loved the color blue- nothing else had. Sure he was now older, more mature, but he was the same underneath it all. He still had raven black hair that was a mess a top his head, yet was still incredibly HOT!, his onyx eyes still melted many a girl’s heart, he was still a top ninja. He was now passed six foot. Six foot three to be exact.
Had she changed? Was she still hung up on him? Was her hair the same? Was pink still her favorite color? How long was her hair? What did she do now a days? Was she still the smartest ninja?
“Sasuke?” a feminine voice from his passed interrupted his thoughts, though it wasn’t the female he wanted to hear.
Turning to great her, he found he hardly recognized her. “Ino Yamanaka?” she was clearly pregnant, the bump evident. She wore her hair down and around her face, though it was still blonde and long.
“It’s Akimichi now. I married Choji about a year ago,” she beamed proudly. Her face shone with glee and happiness.
Never in a million years would he have guessed she would have ended up with Choji. It never seemed likely, but whatever works for her.
“It’s so good to see you again!” she smiled as she put her arm around his and drug him after her. “Come on. I’ll bet you’re dying to see the others. Our hangout hasn’;t changed since you’ve been…gone. I was just on my over there actually…” she was the same over talkative, rambling Ino she had always been.
When she paused to take a breath, Sasuke cut in, “When are you due?”
“Oh, two months now if everything goes smoothly…” And she launched into another story without breaking stride. He shook his head. Only one other girl he knew could ramble about nothing as much as Ino: Sakura Haruno- the reason he was here in the first place.
The two stepped into the small ramen shop. Sweat collected at the base of Sasuke’s neck since the little shop only worsened the heat. It was humid and muggy as well, not helping matters.
Sitting at the counter were eight of the, then, Genin he had grown up with. They all turned to face Sasuke and Ino as she called out a greeting. Hugging and handshakes ensued and everyone was happy to see him. Two of his friends were missing, he noticed right away.
“Good to see you again,” Rock Lee shook Sasuke’s hand firmly. His height was the only thing that changed. He was still the black, bowl cut haired, bushy browed, lanky, green jumpsuit wearing kid he had been at twelve. He looked more like Gai- sensei now than ever.
They all took a seat on a picnic bench in front of the shop. Deciding to give Sasuke the low down, they went around the table starting with Lee.
“I am now a Jonin. I teach Genin at the academy just as Gai-sensei had, teaching them the greatness of youth! I am flying solo as for my dating status,” he nodded to Tenten when he was finished.
Tenten’s hair was down and short, just above the shoulders. She wore a pink tank top and Bermuda shorts. “Well, I’ve been happily married to Neji for three years. We have a two year old daughter: Mae. I am a Jonin, but I am only called out in emergencies.”
Neji’s hair was still long, though shorter than it had been. He was taller than even Sasuke by a few inches. He was a spitting image of his father. “I’m an ANBU,” Neji shrugged and turned to Choji.
Choji was still big, but he had filled out more when he grew a few inches. “I help out at the hospital.” He nodded to his wife.
Ino smiled as she started, “I now own and run the flower shop, and as you know, I’m expecting in a couple of months.”
Kiba, who was fairly short for a guy- a couple of inches shorter than Sasuke, replied, “I’m a vet, and I am dating this really hot chick from work.” He grinned like only a guy could grin as he thought about his girl.
Hinata was next, but knowing she hated speaking in public, Naruto went for her. “Hinata and I have been married for four years. We have a three year old son, Hiro, and a one year old son, Akito. I am also an ANBU, and Hinata is a stay at home mom.”
Naruto was now tall, handsome, and muscular. He had really come a long ways since the good old days. Hinata, though still shy, had grown up quite nicely.
“Oh, and Shikamaru married Temari. You remember her- Gaara of the sand’s older sister. Their wedding solidified the alliance of the two villages. They married five years ago, and have two kids: a son: Toby, who’s four years old, and a daughter: Suki, two years old,” Ino explained.
Sasuke nodded, taking everything in. He was just glad everyone excepted h im again. He was happy no one held a grudge. He was still disappointed though. SHE was not here.
“Where’s Sakura?” He just came right out and asked. He figured he’d never know otherwise, and he didn’t want to put himself through that, always wondering, never knowing.
Everyone exchanged glances as if know what they’d say would not be what Sasuke wanted to hear before Naruto answered softly, “She, uh, moved away as soon as we graduated from school.”
She couldn’t believe she was back, back to the place she had run from so long ago. As soon as she had graduated from the academy, she had hightailed it out of that village like it was the plague. She had moved away to the sand village, where she had become fast friends with Temari, Kankuro, and Gaara. She had hoped never to return to the Leaf Village.
But, as luck would have it, her mother had become very sick, so Sakura had returned to lend a hand. She was educated in medicine, and she had studied under Lady Tsunade for a few years before she graduated, so maybe she could help. As soon as her mother was better, Sakura didn’t plan on sticking around.
The main reason she had left was to get away from HIM. He was the root of so much embarrassment and anguish. She wanted a clean slate, a fresh start. So, she moved someplace that no one really knew the real her. Sure, she missed Naruto and the others, but they all reminded her of Sasuke because they had all been friends.
When Sasuke had rejected her before he left her unconscious on a park bench all alone, Sakura’s feelings of love turned to hate. She despised him; what kind of a human being could knock out their teammate, no matter how much that person didn’t like them. It was no secret that Sasuke had never really liked Sakura, but they were teammates, and he had saved her life countless times before. Why then did he have to hurt her? Why would he just leave her there unconscious?
Sakura was different now. She was no longer that helpless, needy, infatuated little girl. She was now an educated, strong-willed, independent, mature adult. After moving to the Sand Village, Sakura had become a teacher at their academy, putting her skills to good use. But, just looking at her, no one would guess she was a school teacher. In her spare time, Temari was training her to get stronger, and it was working.
Sakura carried herself with finesse. She stood up straight, walked like she owned the world, though didn’t act like she did, her head held high. Her pink hair was now mid-back in length and held layers that framed her face. She was tall at five foot eight, and she was still slim, weighing in at one hundred and twenty one pounds and three ounces.
Her attitude was different now. She still had a short fuse, but was learning to control it. She had the patience of a saint- she’d have to to deal with the little brats at the academy all day. She no longer had to depend on others; she could take care of herself. She had learned many forms of Tai-Jutsu.
Sighing, Sakura made her way to the market place of the village for supplies for her mother. Why wouldn’t her mother just move to the Sand Village to be with her? It would have been so much simpler. Then, Sakura wouldn’t have to worry about running into anyone from her so distant past.
Checking the list, Sakura headed into the nearest shop.
Exhaling a deep breath, Sasuke made his way through the bustling streets of Konoha. His whole trip back was in vain. His whole reason for coming back wasn’t even here. She had run; probably from him. A pain shot through his heart. What was that feeling? He wondered as he clutched his chest. Love? There was no way. Dismissing the pain, he continued on.
He thought back to the conversation he had held with the other Genin:
“Sakura left as soon as we graduated from the academy,” Naruto had informed Sasuke attentively.
Sasuke shook his head, “Wait, what? Where did she go? Why did she leave?” Sasuke couldn’t imagine Sakura Haruno leaving her hometown, the place she grew up, leaving all her friends behind and not look back.
Ino came around and put her arm around his shoulders like a best friend would do, not like a crazed stalker- like she used to do. “She moved to the Sand Village. She sends me letters, keeps in touch. She’s made a lot of friends from the sounds of it. She never really gave a reason for her leaving. She just did, telling me it was something she needed to do.”
Sasuke could tell Ino wasn’t telling him everything, and it burned him on the inside. “Tell me why she really left.” Sasuke was tired of beating around the bush. He wanted the truth.
Everyone looked down. No one wanted to answer. They thought the ground was much more interesting than him.
“Someone, tell me!” Sasuke shouted angrily. He could take it, no matter what it was, he could handle it.
Ino looked up. “She left because of you.”
Why did she leave because of him? Was it because he left her? She didn’t seem like the kind of person who would hold a grudge for so long. What was the reason?
Sighing as he turning onto the market street, he thought he saw a pink head of hair. Blinking a few times, the person disappeared into a shop. Sasuke dashed after her. He only knew one person with pink hair.
Sakura wanted to go to the flower shop and at least let Ino know she was in town. Ino was her best friend. Sure, they had been arch rivals in middle school over Sasuke, but when he left, their bond grew. At first, they were only together to cry over Sasuke being gone, but over time, they got over him and started dating other guys from school. And, they had been inseparable. But, Sakura always knew she was going to leave, and Ino had accepted that.
As she opened the door, the little bell went off, signaling her entrance. Sakura strode up to the counter and rang the bell. She was a little disappointed when Ino’s mother came in.
“Sakura, how have you been? I haven’t seen you in awhile,” Ino’s mother smiled brightly as she tried to make conversation. She leaned against the counter ready for some gossip material.
Sakura wanted to roll her eyes. Ino’s mom only ever wanted to know things to go and tell other people about it, usually exaggerating the story. “I’ve been good,” Sakura answered. “I just stopped by to see Ino. Does she work today?”
“She worked this morning. She might come by later this afternoon,” Mrs. Yamanaka informed Sakura standing up straight, knowing that Sakura wasn’t going to talk much. “I’ll tell her you came by.”
“You don’t have to do that. I’ll go find her,” Sakura shook her head as she turned around waving goodbye to Mrs. Yamanaka, who had already disappeared back into the back room.
Sighing, Sakura opened the door and smacked right into someone. “Oh, pardon me. I guess I’m in a little bit of a hurry, and I wasn’t paying much attention,” Sakura apologized.
“It was my fault, I was the one not paying any attention,” the voice from her past jolted her into realizing how much she actually missed everyone. Maybe she was ready to come back after all. She missed her old friends a lot.
“How have you been?” Sakura squealed, jumping into his arms for a hug. She had even missed her perverted teacher. How pathetic was she?
“Keeping myself busy, you know,” he held up a book. “But, I want to hear all about you and your adventures in the Sand Village.”
“Want to go out for lunch? I can catch you up to speed then?” Sakura suggested. She was so excited to see her old teacher. He had always been a bit on the odd side, but he had always been there when it counted most, maybe a few hours late, but that was Kakashi.
“Sure. How about the Ramen Shop?” he suggested as they walked side by side to the little shop that had served as a base of most of Sakura’s memories. Her whole life revolved around that little shop when she was younger.
“Sounds great,” Sakura smiled. In some ways it was good to be back.
Sasuke ran into the shop and found it was just a furry pink hat some girl was wearing. He sighed in disappointment; he had to quit getting his hopes up. Hope. It was such a sad word. It was dashed more often than not, and it hurt when it was.
Making his way back out onto the busy street, he decided to make his way back home, for a much needed nap. Maybe then he would stop hallucinating about the girl of his dreams. He just needed to accept the fact that the two of them would probably never see each other again.
Making his way passed the little ramen shop, he thought he saw a girl with pink hair, but he dismissed it as his mind playing tricks on him again.