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Tanabata

By sweetangel014

Tanabata

A/N: READ AND REVIEW. Favorites are kinda nice but reviews are more appreciated than faves and alerts. You'll really help an author out with your opinion.

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Tanabata

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The bamboo leaves rustle,
shaking away in the eaves.
The stars twinkle
on the gold and silver grains of sand.
The five-colour paper strips
I have already written.
The stars twinkle,
they watch us from heaven.

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There was a stirring in Konoha but unlike the hum of danger and impending disasters; the atmosphere was abuzz with life and excitement. Stalls were being set and merchants both local and foreign had placed their merchandise to their area all for the preparation of the festival. The large bundle of bamboos that were erected in the heart of the activity-filled square had certainly given away the type of festival they were preparing for.

A seventeen year old girl with curiously bright pink hair walked through the stalls, arms laden with two paper bags of groceries. Haruno Sakura chewed on her bottom lip as she finally arrived at her apartment, a few blocks away from the square, lanterns were tied by the poles and paper streamers were colorful as they fluttered with the summer breeze.

Tanabata was one of the festivals everyone was looking forward to every year. When she was younger, she had written the same wish to that red piece of paper every single Tanabata and now, she may not to the festival because if she did... those same words will be on the paper. Usually it starts by the twilight hour but as early as noon, fireworks had erupted on the sky and the children were already wearing their yukatas.

She closed the door to her apartment with a swift kick; her earlier mood was slightly dampened when Naruto and Ino both told her that they had their own plans for Tanabata. Naruto, she can understand as he's celebrating his first festival date with Hinata. But she can't help but feel abandoned when Ino told her that she was asked out by a chunin who was three years older than them.

"Damn it Ino-pig" Sakura mumbled as she set the bags on the kitchen isle and blew a strand of hair that blocked her left eye. She straightened her red shirt and sighed; now was not the time to wallow in self-pity.

Maybe it would be a nice out... she can take up on Tsunade-shishou's offer to have some sake with her and Shizune-senpai. Kami, she started to sound like an old woman right about now. She shifted her gaze to her closet and opened it with a sigh. The box that she had dug up days ago sat on the shelf, teasing her. Sakura opened the lid to reveal a red yukata with cherry blossom patterns that were embroidered with expensive pink threads. Fair toned fingers traced every pattern before she let out a deep breath and pulled it out of its box. Who knows, she could have a fun time even if she went there alone.

She checked her calendar and noticed the days that were marked out... the days Sasuke had been absent since his last departure. With a despondent air that hung around her, she went to her bedroom and opened her drawer to retrieve a velvet box and opened it to reveal a necklace with a small yet beautiful diamond pendant. She had been wearing that necklace everyday ever since he sent it to her by a summoned hawk, the only time she took it off was when she takes her baths, training and sometimes during hectic grocery days, like today.

No one really noticed it, even Ino didn't, which was more than fine with her. It was none of other people's business to know what was going on between them. Or maybe she had hoped there was at least something between them to keep as a secret. There were times she had tried to forget him, she even tried to shift her affections to one of the many admirers who had confessed their love to her but whenever they handed her a bouquet of flowers, she would reluctantly take them before ultimately push it back into their hands and reject them kindly.

It didn't help the fact that she felt like she was cheating on Sasuke whenever she tried to entertain their confession; which made Ino laugh and told her she was so hung up with him. That was the last time she told anything about that specific subject. Far too many times had he hurt her, both intentional and unintentional but that bastard still had something that belonged to her and she knew a long time ago why she can't love another guy other than him.

He still has her heart.

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The familiar sight of the Konohagakure forestry had welcomed the wanderer's sight as he walked through the dirt path; it took him almost the whole week to return from Amigakure by foot. The woods had provided him a sense of nostalgia, and the sound of the river that rushed through the forest gave him comfort. He had covered the insignia of his clan, whereas he proudly showed it in his youth but the sins of both his and his clan's past had left his presence much to be desired.

Three months since he had 'visited' Konoha though it was more of a curt appearance since a maniac threatened the whole world by using the moon. The need to protect Konoha was quite an uncharacteristic thing for him before he remembered that Itachi had loved Konoha as his home... and the image of a certain pink haired nin appeared in his mind gave him a push to protect the village.

The fireworks started going off through the orange sky and it made him quirk a brow; what are they celebrating now? He counted the days is mind before he remembered that it was Tanabata. He never really went to that particular festival, even when his clan was alive since they held public festivals with little importance.

As the sight of the Hokage mountain got bigger and bigger, his feet started to weigh heavier. Usually, he wasn't this anxious to get to the village but at the same, he wanted to see her. He didn't know if Sakura even received the necklace he bought for her. It was a simple diamond-shaped pendant that he saw from a traveling merchant's hoard; he didn't even know if she wore jewelry. A voice from the back if his head told him that she will love any kind of gift he would give her just because it was from him, before he quickly shut the voice away since it was just his ego talking.

People flooded the normally empty streets that he used and everywhere he looked, there were bright lights and most people wore their yukata to celebrate the yearly event; a bit stupid in his opinion.

Sasuke travelled in the shadows, avoiding every shinobi and Anbu who patrolled the streets. Even after Kakashi had pardoned him from his crimes, he knew he wouldn't exactly get a warm welcome from everyone else, even now. In the corner of his eye, he saw Naruto stuffing his face with some takoyaki with the Hyuuga girl next to him. Among the people who were enjoying the festival; he saw Kakashi wearing his hokage uniform (making him snort at the sight) talking to Gai and several other shinobi.

He adjusted the strap of his bag and hopped from roof to roof before he arrived at a veranda. He was familiar with this particular building- or rather, with this apartment. Sasuke knew that she will be at the festival; Sakura thrived in a social setting and she loved talking to people whereas he detested it. He didn't have to but he still looked through the glass doors, thankfully the curtains were drawn back and her bedroom was in plain sight. The bed that was covered with a beige blanket and a large stuffed bear was placed on a chair next to the nightstand.

His imagination started to run wild as he thought about a faceless man giving her the toy and she accepted it with a blush and with that look on her face that was usually reserved only for him. Annoyance and ill-concealed jealousy began to pour out of his being as his brain recounted that illusion again and again like some sort of genjutsu.

'Get a grip idiot' he mentally berated himself as he turned around to leave when he saw a partly opened drawer that was conveniently near his vantage point. He took a step closer and saw the velvet box that encased the necklace he had given her among the other trinkets that she had kept. A heavy feeling as if his heart dropped plagued him; the fact that she had just placed it in a drawer filled with unnecessary objects meant that the gift didn't really mean anything to her.

Had she moved on?

Did she find someone who can make her smile the way she used to smile at him?

Damn, he came back to visit them and maybe spend some time with her just to find out that someone might have snagged her attention in his absence. But then again... they don't even have any semblance of a relationship that will him give him the right to claim her.

Had he not made it clear with every forehead poke he had given her every time he departs for his journey? 'Well maybe it's because she didn't know what the hell it meant!' a voice that was eerily like Naruto's chirped in his mind. Twilight had turned into night and he realized that he had spent almost half an hour just by standing on Sakura's veranda, mumbling to himself like a madman.

He shook his head and hopped down from the apartment with half a mind to walk out of Konoha and maybe clear his head. The sash that was tied around his head began to feel tight as he breathed in the night air; the heat of summer was starting to get to him. The sounds of laughter, people talking and the games being played started to grate on his nerves; he ignored the way his stomach grumbled as the scent of the food wafted to his nostrils. The bridge was not far from where he was walking and he really needed somewhere quiet to sort out the countless thoughts in his brain.

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It was such a lively night and even if it's only seven in the evening, the streets were alive with activities and Sakura managed to talk to some of her friends before they were swept away by the food, the games or their dates but she just let it slide. It wasn't really bad to go alone, she had a rather amusing chat with Iruka-sensei and Hokage-sama (she giggled at her old instructor's exasperated expression when she said that) as they took a stroll through the streets.

Shockingly, Tsunade-shishou wasn't in the bar... instead she was in the casino; abusing the pachinko with a pile of coins that was getting lighter by the second while Shizune was complaining with Ton-ton in her arms. Lee, ever the gentleman, had asked if she wanted him to escort her and Sakura declined his offer as politely as she could and told him to look for Tenten.

'I should just be a damn matchmaker' she thought sourly as she bit into her taiyaki. It wasn't really a meal but she liked it better than the grilled squid. The bamboos were now covered with numerous papers with written wishes. Her green eyes sparkled considerably as she watched a dark haired woman lift her daughter so that the child can tie her own paper before the woman turned around-

"Kurenai-sensei!" Sakura greeted enthusiastically.

Yuuhi Kurenai looked up from Mirai to see the Godaime's apprentice approach her with a smile on her face. Kurenai returned her smile as Mirai placed a finger in her mouth, her red eyes looking up to the pink haired woman with curiosity.

"Hello Sakura. Are you enjoying Tanabata?" she asked, prompting for Sakura to nod. Sakura leaned down to Mirai and offered her a grin, "Konbawa, Mirai-chan!"

Shyly, Mirai grinned before she hid herself behind Kurenai's leg. Both Sakura and Kurai giggled at her cute antics and asked each other about their wellbeing before Sakura said her well wishes and went on to see what else can capture her interest. Oddly enough, she had seen Ino walking through the stall with Sai right next to her, the brunette chunin was nowhere to be found and the normally talkative blond was twirling a strand of that ridiculously long hair around her finger in a coquettish manner... it was so un-Ino-like.

"Hello young lady, would you like an uchiwa?" Sakura almost jumped when a wheezy voice came from behind. An old man with a straw hat grinned at her toothily; in front of him was a cart that displayed stacks of paper fans. The chain of her necklace that was hidden under the yukata felt heavy as the old man held out a fan with the print of Konoha's symbol to her. The irony of her situation almost made her snort but she hid it with a small cough.

"Um, I don't really need it right now" she said, tugging at the chain around her neck.

The old man chuckled as he plucked an uchiwa that was hanging by the stand and handed it to her. The paper and bamboo fan was decorated with scattered cherry blossom print, lovely against the dark red background. "It's a gift ojou-san, it's really warm tonight and it suits your yukata. Your boyfriend is one lucky man" he complimented, making her blush.

"Ah, I don't... have a boyfriend" she ended with a whisper, earning a curious stare from the man. But he said nothing (which she was grateful for) and pushed the fan to her.

"Well the star festival is a time for our wishes to be heard. Who knows what fate has in store for us" he responded and nodded at her, "That's how I met my wife". Sakura endured his smile with a single hesitant grin before she accepted the fan and bowed her head in gratitude.

True to the old man's words, the air suddenly became too humid for her and the number of people around had doubled the heat. "I need some air" she mumbled before she slipped out of the crowed and made her way to the red bridge, hoping that the air there was cool enough since fanning wasn't enough. While using the uchiwa, Sakura began to wonder where the certain Uchiha was at that time. She knew the real reason why she was so dour despite the hyped atmosphere; Sasuke still hasn't come back.

She cursed herself as she remembered the words she had written on the white paper but she didn't tie it to the bamboo like she had done every other year before. Man, she would have laughed at her predicament if she wasn't the one involved. No normal person can be so hung up with their childhood crush. She wasn't sure that it can be classified as crush at all.

It was, in fact, in the borderline of obsession and love. No matter how much she had confessed to him in the past, he still didn't return her feelings. An uncomfortable lurch in her stomach echoed within her as she reminisced on the times he almost killed her; true he was at the edge of his sanity at that time but she can't help but wonder if he really could see her past as anything but a comrade.

Naruto was his best friend and they forged a brother-like bond, Kakashi-sensei became the reluctant father-figure even if he didn't want to. The forehead tapping was a strange gesture, he always did that to her every time he would leave for his journey but he never told her why he did that. At least she knew that he cared about her in some degree, the necklace he had sent her by his summoned hawk was proof enough that he cared about her to send something that pretty even if she's not one to wear accessories.

The path that led to the bridge was empty and the fireflies had started to fly towards the riverbank. Sakura tucked a small strand of pink hair back to her bun that was kept up by two hair sticks. Leaning against the rail, she looked up and stared at the starry night sky, the Milky Way was visible.

"It's really Tanabata" she whispered, relishing the cool breeze that graced her face.

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At first, he thought he was seeing things due to hunger but he can't imagine Sakura wearing a yukata with a red uchiwa on hand staring at the stars so clearly. He found himself rooted on the ground as he watched her simply staring up at the heavens like it was the first time seeing her. Her short pink hair was tied into a small bun; her bangs were swept to the left and tamed with several bobby pins. The light red yukata with pink cherry blossom patterns suited well with her namesake. His heart fluttered in an unfamiliar beat as he observed her green eyes; those bright orbs that were always filled with tears be it happy or sad or even angry and he was behind it all.

There were times that he knew he didn't deserve her. He had hurt her the most out of everyone. She had given her whole heart and he almost left a hole on her chest; twice. But he was a selfish man and from what from he had concluded in the past hour; possessive. The mere thought of someone approaching the Haruno had brought his blood to the boiling point; finding comfort with the imagination of using his Chidori to a faceless stranger who will make a pass to the medic nin.

It confused the hell out of him. He had never felt this emotion before but he also wasn't ignorant to not know what he was going through. He was falling for her. He was goddamn falling for Haruno Sakura. The girl who followed him everywhere in their genin days, the girl who he deemed annoying, the one who tried to stop him from leaving Konoha the first time... the one who never stopped looking for him (along with Naruto) all those years.

The one who fought beside them in the Fourth Great War, the one who had shed tears when she saw the outcome of his and Naruto's fight. The one who once again offered her assistance to him when he sets out to see the world for himself and seek redemption.

The one who was watching the stars.

He made the decision to make himself known and when she felt his chakra, he stepped out into the open, moonlight exposed his full figure.

"Sasuke-kun" she breathed out. A familiar blush started to make its way to her cheeks which greatly pleased him for some reason. She tucked the uchiwa in her obi and approached him; her sandals clacked against the wooden floorboard and tucked her bangs further behind her ear.

She was nervous.

"Okaeri" she greeted with a gentle smile on her face, present every time he arrived from his travels. Neither of them made a move to advance to the other. Usually she would envelope him in a warm hug which he had certainly grown accustom to but right now, her arms were folded in front of her.

"Aa" he whispered back. It was so soft that she almost missed it but it warmed her heart. The very sight of him made her heart hammer against her chest. His onyx hair was poking out of the sash that was tied around his head. His pale face was as handsome as ever and his mismatched eyes glowed against the dark setting. She noticed that he was shifting his weight to favor his right side, something must be wrong with his left side (other than his still missing limb).

"Kinda ironic that we meet during Tanabata, ne Sasuke-kun?" she tried to giggle but it just came out as a dry chuckle. He quirked a brow at her words.

"What do you mean?" he asked. He wasn't really interested in the origins of festivals, as they usually involved deities and folk tales.

"The tale of Orihime and Hikoboshi" she muttered "Doomed to meet once every seven years" She didn't need to tell him the whole story as she had pointed out the important part of it. Paralleling the myth with their position no matter how different the situation was. He wasn't a cowherd who was taken from his lover; she wasn't a beautiful princess who weaves on her loom. Sasuke's a shinobi who was blinded by hate and vengeance and set off to see the world with a brand new perspective.

Sakura's the second-in-command of the hospital just under Tsunade by seniority, the hotheaded female member of Team Kakashi and hailed as one of the great war heroes along with her team. The kunoichi who waited every single day for the arrival of the sole heir of the Uchiha clan.

"We don't live in some fairy tale shit" he blatantly stated, earning him a tight-lipped grin. He knew that it was a forced smile, just for the sake of stopping the tears to fall from her eyes.

"I know Sasuke-kun... not everyone can have their happy endings. The characters didn't have theirs either" Sakura answered. True she was hurt with his words but this was Sasuke; he wasn't one for sentimental tales and he had been the realistic one out of all of them, no matter how pessimistic he was. She was happy that Naruto and Hinata got theirs, they deserved each other, and at least they're happy.

"Though I think Naruto and Hinata were star-crossed lovers" she giggled, her mood lifted slightly when she told the exact same thing to the said couple, their faces painted with several shades of red.

"The stars have nothing to do with our future" Sasuke quietly interjected "We make our own paths."

"... so where does your path lead you?" Sakura asked, walking slowly to him with sweaty palms. She knew it was presumptuous of her to think that he was thinking of a future with her in it.

"I don't know yet" he answered honestly, prompting her to stop a few inches away from him. He still can't wrap around his mind the high possibility that he felt some kind of attachment to her... with a romantic undertone. "The world is vast and there are a lot of things I wished to see before I can know where it will all lead up to."

"Then why do you keep returning to Konoha if you're so keen on seeing the world?" she challenged, her green eyes narrowed with unspoken anger. She was usually compliant but she was getting tired of the role of the girl who was waiting for him to return, it was (in her mind's eye) quite a pathetic sight to see. No matter how devoted she was to him, she couldn't really wait forever, one of these days; she will have to let the emotions of sadness, abandonment, anger and resentment plant a seed of doubt in her mind.

Sasuke had memorized her body language a long time ago, every twitch of her lips, the way she stood and how her eyes changed shades depending on her mood; and with the scathing tone of her voice. Her anger and the sense of being hurt by him (yet again) had sent a jolt of guilt right into his chest. It used to be so simple, he would come back, she will fawn over him; check him for any injuries he acquired, make sure he eats right and kept pestering him to stay with them before he would ultimately say no and leave within a week with a poke on her forehead. She had never pushed him away like this before.

The image of the velvet case in her drawer and the teddy bear in her room began to make sense. There was a chance (a pretty low possibility but still a chance) that she might have moved on and this was the ultimatum for him. The air started to cool down and there was something in the winds that made him uncharacteristically vocal with his emotions, something he would never do in a hundred years.

"I keep coming back here because I have something to come back to" he said, loud and clear.

He watched her face, expecting her to cry with happiness and envelop him in a warm hug she always gave him before babble some nonsense but instead, she just stood there with a blank face. His stomach squirmed in an uncomfortable manner and the thought of her rejecting him had made him realize what he was feeling at that moment.

Scared

He was scared that she would turn him away, dismiss him like what he had done to her years ago. The scenario in his head began to conjure up some words that she might say to turn him down.

Will she be polite and gentle? Or will she be cruel and cold? He knew he deserved to get the bitter end as he had realized how cold he had been with her. It's a miracle that she was even civil with him despite the hell he made her went through.

But when he looked upon her face, he could see the calculating light in her eyes, the way her lips form a slight frown and the way her fingertips tapped against her lap. She was thinking or rather, guessing about the meaning behind his words. He had almost laughed, how can someone so intelligent as her can be so slow? A glimmer around her pale neck had caught his attention.

The silver chain was all too familiar for him and without thinking; he walked right up to her and tugged at the back of the chain, pulling the pendant right up to the middle of her neck. The diamond that he had sent her months ago shone against the moonlight. Sakura blushed under his intense gaze, feeling her knees getting weaker by the second as his warm breath hit her skin.

"You're wearing it...?" his tone was colored with disbelief.

She bit her lower lip and took a step back, afraid that she might collapse under the intensity of his eyes and the heat that radiated from his body, "H-hai. I never got to thank you Sasuke-kun, it's beautiful." Her anger evaporated when he saw a slight tug on his lips form a ghost of a smile. A genuine smile like the one he gave her when he first poked her forehead.

The yearning for some sort physical contact to the woman in front of him was almost a punch in his gut. The way she looked, not just tonight but all other times had gave him warmth in his chest. Her voice, her laugh, her strength, determination and resilience, the warmth of her chakra whenever she healed him- all of these things contributed to make his heart beat wildly, making him wish he had the power to control the rhythm of that infernal organ.

He swallowed thickly as she tucked a stray hair strand behind her ear; the blush he was too pleased to see made itself known.

"So- um..." she was starting to stutter, "Have you seen Naruto and Kakashi-sensei yet? I think they're still at the square-"

"I didn't come here for the festival" he clarified.

Sakura blinked, usually she couldn't get two words out of him but now he was more vocal than ever. The 'hn's and 'aa's formed into actual sentences. He opened his mouth to say something when a low growl of a hungry stomach cut through the silence. A laugh erupted from Sakura's mouth as Sasuke averted his gaze from the laughing kunoichi, his face; flushed red with embarrassment.

"I think you came here for the food" she teased, noticing the tips of his ears getting redder by the second. It felt so good to laugh, it was as if the earlier tensions had been swept away and replaced with a good memory. So she straightened herself and walked past him, earning her a look of confusion before she titled her head towards the square.

"C'mon, let's get you something to eat" she cajoled only to be met with silence. Sakura sighed before she made her way to the nearest stall, knowing that her companion wasn't comfortable with crowds; he can barely handle four people as it is plus his prolonged isolation to society had negated all hopes of him being a social person.

He leaned against the wall, his face was partly covered in the shadows and within minutes, Sakura came back a paper plate filled with steaming takoyaki. He said nothing as they walked through the deserted street that towards the very same bench. He tried to change their direction but Sakura just kept walking to that area.

Was she trying to make him feel bad?

She sat on the stone bench, patting the space next to her which he complied to. There was a comfortable silence between them, for the first time; Sakura didn't feel like asking him about his quest. She was more than content with his presence and he was the same as well. For the longest time, they sat on the bench with Sasuke popping the food into his mouth, slowly chewing as his thoughts consumed him.

Sakura sneaked a glance towards him and looked at the face she had memorized far too much. He was handsome, obviously, but there was something in his eyes that always drew her to him. His black and purple eyes were framed with thick lashes and they stared into space, unaware of everything around him. It was rare to see him this relaxed; normally he wouldn't display such vulnerability even if it was just her. A slight tug at her lips had her smile at him dumbly and without warning, his sole black orb flickered to her direction, eliciting a deep blush on her cheeks before she composed herself. A soft rumbling sound that came from his chest made her look at him once more. Did he just chuckle? Usually he would ignore her stares or pretend like he didn't notice it but this time, he was actually- dare she say it- amused at her blatant staring.

Feeling a bit embarrassed at getting caught, Sakura rattled her brain to try and think of a topic that can ease her nerves. "Anou, where were you before you went back here?" she asked.

"In Amigakure" he simply replied, and she knew that was all he was going to say.

"Ah, have you seen the Naruto Bridge? Tsunade-sama had sent us there once as a part of a medical expedition. Inari-kun sure had grown up, he's as tall as me now" she said before a morose expression seeped to her face. "Tazuna-san had passed away three months before we got there but... Inari-kun's strong, he can handle it. Naruto really influenced him" she assured him.

"Let's just hope his idiocy isn't contagious" Sasuke grunted, making her shake her head.

"Don't be harsh on him Sasuke-kun" Sakura chastised but she knew that he didn't mean anything by it. He of all people knew how far Naruto had come from. But then again... it wouldn't be Naruto if he didn't do or say something stupid every once in a while.

The stars shone brightly above them, the night was still young and Sakura didn't want it to end so soon but Sasuke started to stand and adjust his bag, making her panic.

"Wa-wait- you're leaving already?"

He barely spared her a glance as he tightened the poncho around his shoulder, knowing that if he looked at her a moment more, he will be tempted to stay here more than he needed.

"I need to go, I just came here to..." he trailed off. Why did he come back to Konoha at this very night?

"But you just got here" he heard her whisper behind him. "I-I don't know when I'm going to see you again" Damn it, he knew that tone. Did she know that her tears gradually became his weakness? His whole body stiffened when he felt something tug on the back of his poncho.

Sakura knew she was being childish about this. This journey held a great importance for him; he needed to be enlightened, regain his bearings and redeem himself. But there was a possibility that he might never return; that there may come a day when he would find that there wasn't anything for him in Konoha anymore. It terrified her.

She stood up, her knees shaking slightly before she gathered the courage to wrap her arms around his midsection and leaned her head against his broad back. That single moment had triggered a sleeping memory in both their minds; at a time where they were fighting for their lives, when Sasuke gave in to the cursed mark and Sakura was the only one who was able to stop him. She felt his hand touch her own, Sakura tightened her grip, afraid that he will push her off and chastise her for the immature display. Instead, he laid his hand against her folded ones before he turned around- her hands still encircled around him- and stared at her.

He was at a loss; the heat of her body had ignited something in him... a primal need that he wanted to stay hidden until the right time comes and tonight was not it. The agony in her eyes had riddled him with guilt and the unshed tears had forced him to be weak... to be emotional.

He hated it... hated her for turning him into this weak, dependent being... hated her for making him feel things he had deemed useless for a shinobi. But at the same time, she was always in his mind. She was in every flowering tree he passed by, in every meadow that reminded him the shade of her eyes, in every babbling brook where he would sometimes seek to have a drink or clean himself; she was everywhere for him. But of course, he will have to kill himself before he would say those things to her.

Minutes ticked by but they stayed in that position; her arms around him while he stared at her, his remaining arm hung limply on his side. Both of them said nothing, afraid to hurt the other. But when Sakura started to loosen her arms that held him, he suddenly leaned down, their foreheads touching. Her face flushed yet again but this time, she wasn't the only one flustered with the newfound closeness. His eyes softened as he stared into her green eyes. He can't really describe them except that they were alluring. Whenever she was jovial, they would shine in light green, whenever she was upset, it would darken in several shades.

It had been almost two years since her last confession to him but he knew, just knew that she still loves him. Not just a childhood crush but something deeper- much, much deeper. And now that he finally let himself feel the things he had deprived all those years, it rained upon him in full force. It was a mixture of anxiety, uncertainty and fear but amidst of all that; there was peace, clarity and above all, love. He wondered if this what 'love' felt like. The only love he was familiar with involved his family. This type of love was foreign, it was an unchartered territory but somehow, he trusted Sakura to guide him. Between the two of them; she was the stronger one when it comes to the matters of the heart. And she's stubborn, like the rest of their team.

"S-Sasuke-kun?" she stammered, the proximity of the distance between them or rather, lack thereof had her mind scrambling to make some any semblance of sense in all of this. Was this all just a dream? She hoped with all her mind and soul that it wasn't. Not when he was so close, his natural warmth seeping through the layers of her yukata. Even the uchiwa fan that was tucked in her obi felt a couple of degrees hotter.

"Sakura" he said back as if her name was the answer to all of the questions. She licked her dry lips with a quick swipe of her tongue but that simple action had Sasuke held the side of her clothing, the cotton cloth bunched in his hand by a deadly vice-like grip.

Without thinking, he swooped down and pressed his lips against hers. He felt her froze upon the contact but when he motioned to pull away, she stood on the tip of her toes and pulled him closed by placing her hands on the sides of his face.

Time stood still for them.

There might not be any fireworks (save for the festival hanabi) nor were there any flower petals that scattered around them like in those cheesy romance novels but it was perfect. Under the sea of stars, on the exact same spot where they had their goodbyes... they had made a new beginning. Electricity sped along her spine and there were lights dancing behind her eyelids. His lips were dry but warm, like the rest of his body. His hand traced the side of her body, sending every nerve in her body into overload before he cupped the nape of her neck.

It was short, sweet and innocent. It wasn't really an open-mouthed kiss like Ino had once bragged about but this kiss was just... perfect. It was like they were making a promise to each other; a secret pact that would make all of the pain and loneliness disappear.

When they pulled away, Sasuke just rested his forehead against hers, their eyes speaking through the silence and it was then that Sakura knew that he had truly returned her feelings. Though she had an inkling of it because of the necklace, Sasuke had finally given her the solid proof of how much he valued her.

With a sigh, he peeled himself away from her embrace and turned to look at the massive gates. The guards were off-duty right now and since it was a festival, it wouldn't really bother them that people from other villages might pop in now and then.

"Sakura, I-"

She cut him off by placing her forefinger on his mouth, "I know, I know. I think I'm gonna have to keep this sudden appearance of yours from Naruto though". He smirked against her finger; she was always the smart one. Knowing his knuckle-headed best friend, the blond would no doubt whine about his lack of appearance at the festival and didn't even bother to see him at all.

"I'll see you soon" he promised before he raised his two fingers and poked her on the forehead, earning him a questioning head tilt. But before she could even ask him what that was for, he leaned down to her again and placed a kiss on her forehead.

Sakura didn't know how to take in the new side of Sasuke she never knew existed. Usually he would shy away from such gestures but it would seem that he was trying to convey his feelings for her. He wasn't one to blurt out a confession, which was her part.

He gave her one last stare, his eyes pierced right through her and it was all she needed to push away those hidden insecurities, the fear and the loneliness. He needed her to trust him with this and she will never let him doubt her.

"You know," she started, making Sasuke look at her "Earlier I thought we were like Orihime and Hikoboshi but... we're so much different from them."

"Because we're real?" he asked, feeling a bit childish since they were talking about folklores. Sakura giggled and shook her head.

"Iie, it's because they just let fate control them" she answered "If they really wanted to be together, they would've found a way and create their own ending."

"You gathered all that from a fairy tale?" he scoffed. Sakura had half a mind to cuff him on the head before she realized he was teasing her. Seriously, this man had really changed.

"Sasuke-kun" she breathed out, "I love you"

He didn't say anything, which she had expected but he lifted his fingers and tapped her on the forehead again and replied, "Aa". He didn't really the words but somehow the beat of her heart raced and before she knew it, he was already walking away from her.

"Wait!" she cried out, forcing him halt once more before she asked, "You said there was something here to come back to... what is it?"

He froze, how could she not- After all that she still didn't know? He thought about just leaving her there and let her figure it out by herself but when he turned around, he saw her smiling widely and realized she was just making a playful banter with him. This woman...

"Tch, you're so annoying" he muttered but this time, the words weren't an insult or any degradation. It was an endearment, and she understood.

Sakura smiled warmly as he shook his head, clutching the uchiwa close to her chest, next to the hidden pendant. He gave her a final look, his words pouring out as his eyes said it for him.

"I'll come back for you"

And she replied with a whisper, "I'll be waiting..."

With that, he was gone. Sakura sighed as she raked a hand through her hair, taking off the sticks on her hair. She looked up at the sky and said, "Arigatou".

She reached for her obi to tie her wish on the bamboo but when she patted the sides of her obi, it was gone. It must have fallen off when she was walking or something.

"Sakura-chan! We're about to put our wishes on the bamboo!" Naruto yelled behind her. Hinata was right next to him, lovely in her lavender yukata and her long hair was pinned up with an expensive-looking comb. Naruto was in his pair of light blue yukata and wooden sandals. Sakura shrugged her shoulders and followed them, knowing that her wish had already been granted.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"I wish that Sasuke-kun would come home"

He traced every stroke of the ink on the piece of paper before tucking it in his bag. It was sticking out of her obi and out of curiosity; he took it from her and read it when they were walking to the bench. Now it seemed that it's up to him to fulfil her wish since they shared some mutual affection towards one another. His cheeks ached, probably from smiling the most time in a single night.

The night air had become reasonably cooler as he crossed the borders of Konoha. The moon was full and the absence of clouds had made it seem brighter than before, the stars twinkled against the black sky but he thought none of it. The stars are just part of the celestial body, he will be the one who will pave the future, his and hers.

The necklace looked nice on her but the fan that was tucked in her obi suited her more. The sooner he figure things out, the sooner he can return to her. "Baka," he muttered "Do you think I have the patience for seven years?"

His footsteps were silent as he walked through the forest, the chirps of the crickets and the sounds of the night blared in his ears but it didn't bother him... but a sudden thought that passed his mind made him stop-

"Who the hell gave her that fucking bear?" he hissed.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Three months earlier...

"Anou... I know you told me you wanted to cheer me up but..." Sakura trailed off as she eyed the giant teddy bear that Naruto held in his hands. Kakashi, Yamato and Sai stood next to him, each with a smile on his face (she was sure the Rokudaime was smiling as well since it was evident with the crinkle of his eye).

"Since Sasuke-teme's a no-show for now, we figured you can use some company Sakura-chan!" Naruto chirped, holding up the bear for her to take. Sakura was touched by their concern but frowned a bit, "Thanks but- why a teddy bear?"

It was Sai who answered, "Some people turn their attention to inanimate objects to find comfort whenever they miss something. It's very impolite if we bought you a mannequin so a teddy bear's what we picked, though Sasuke-san isn't really that... cuddle-friendly"

Sakura felt a familiar vein on her temple pop but she just grasp the toy with its plush fur and leaned on its soft body. "Plus," Sai continued "Knowing that a few women who miss their partner can sometimes feel sexual frustration. I fear that the bear might be subjected to-"

He didn't get to finish his sentence as he was sent flying to the opposite direction, burying him to the concrete wall of the building. Kakashi sighed as he stared at the direction Sai was standing, knowing that there will be a stack of paperwork regarding that matter. Naruto laughed at Sai's plight while Yamato shook his head.

"Ne, do you think Sasuke-teme will get jealous with the bear?" Naruto asked aloud.

Sakura huffed under her breath and hugged the bear close to her, "Che, like Sasuke-kun would ever get jealous."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes:

Tanabata - meaning "Evening of the seventh" is a Japanese star festival. It celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively). According to legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar. People will write their wishes on the bamboo, the higher the branch you tied it on, the higher the chances that it will come true.

Mirai is the real name of Kurenai and Asuma's daughter


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