Chapter Three: Ink And Flowers
Sometimes when it was quiet and they were inactive, Sakura would tug at the ears of her bow. Sasuke would never tell her but he thought they made her look like a rabbit sometimes.
It was kind of cute.
Sasuke was staring at the red bow when Sakura caught him looking at her.
“Ino gave it to me.”
Sasuke blinked in surprise, not sure what she was talking about. Sakura snickered at him making him frown.
She has a dimple…just one…
“I don’t see what’s so funny.” Sasuke hid the lower part of his face into the high collar of his blue shirt. It was the most color his mother had allowed. He caught her muttering something about his cousin Obito being a bad influence and “all the men in this family have bad taste in clothes.”
“You’re just really cute sometimes.” Sakura gave him a cheeky smile and Sasuke was sure his face was red if the heat rising to it was anything to go by.
He scoffed and turned away. Cute. It was a word for kittens and puppies not training partners. Sasuke huffed to himself when he realized that was where his thoughts were straying earlier.
“That was a long enough break.” Sasuke stood up and made to pull their shuriken from the target boards.
Sasuke had set up a training regimen for Sakura when he realized just how far behind she actually was when it came to handling weapons and taijutsu. She was improving but they were so close to graduation that it wasn’t making that much of a difference in regards to her overall scores.
He had wondered for a while now why Sakura didn’t ask Yamanaka Ino for help with training. They were supposed to be friends and although Sakura’s test scores were better than Ino’s, Ino was still a top student when it came to the overall average of the combined categories that they were ranked on. She was a lot better when it came to shinobi skills than Sakura.
But the girls weren’t talking.
Sasuke didn’t normally care about what happened with the girls in his class. There was a divide in his class with the boys and girls and then the girls either annoyed Sasuke or made him skittish with all of their attention. The only girls Sasuke ever noticed were the ones that were around Sakura.
Yamanaka Ino may have been annoyingly clingy and loud, but she was the perfect friend for Sakura. She had really brought Sakura out of her shell and when the two girls were together and giggling, Sakura really glowed from true happiness which was amazing since she was such a gloomy kid when she started at the Academy.
Sasuke had to refrain from scowling every time he was reminded that it was thanks to Ino that Sakura was so open with people now. That she had made it so much easier to get to know Sakura at all.
But the girls weren’t talking.
“So what’s Yamanaka up to?” Sasuke asked as Sakura as they finished up gathering all of the weapons they had lying around.
“Ino?” Sakura’s eyebrows pulled forward in confusion. After a moment her face relaxed into a blank look. “Oh. Not sure but if you asked her I’m sure she would talk to you. You don’t have to ask me about her.”
Sasuke’s eyes widened in horror when he realized what Sakura’s thought process led her to.
Really? She thinks I’m interested in Yamanaka? Never!
“I was just wondering why you guys aren’t talking. That’s all.”
There was a need to be firm with his response, to leave no room for misunderstandings. He didn’t understand why but it bothered him to think that Sakura would misunderstand.
“Oh.” Sakura tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and fingered the edge of her hair ribbon. “I just don’t wanna be her tag along anymore.”
The conversation died down there. Sasuke knew how she felt as he was always in Itachi’s shadow but he didn’t want to bring it up to Sakura. His personal failings and insecurities with being compared to his genius older brother weren’t things he was ready to discuss with anyone beyond his own mother.
“I have to go. My parents need my help in the shop today.”
It was kind of sad that after spending weeks together, Sasuke didn’t even know what Sakura’s parents did for work. All he knew was that they were civilians and he felt a little guilty for having lost interest after finding out that fact.
“Oh yeah. My parents own a teahouse. It’s more like a café than anything else. You should stop by sometime. Don’t worry, we serve lunch too not just sweets.”
Sakura swung her bags strap onto her shoulder. She was always toting around a bunch of books.
“I’m sure I can find a tea that pairs well with tomatoes,” she teased him before waving goodbye.
“Funny,” Sasuke muttered. Café? He was more accustomed to traditional tea houses because his mother and father were fond of the art of tea ceremony.
As soon as Sakura was gone Sasuke glared at a cluster of trees.
“I know you’re there.”
“Know you don’t!” Shisui snickered in the distance. “Ow! Izumi quit it, I’m delicate.”
“Idiots.” Sasuke shook his head and made his way home.
Sasuke found his family’s puppy sleeping on the engawa with the cats. Shiro was on his back, tongue out, and with no care in the world.
“I don’t think the dog needs a walk, Kaa-san.”
“Yes he does. All he does is sleep and eat. He will get fat.” Mikoto joined Sasuke on the engawa and handed him a leash. “He’s too young to be allowed to roam freely. Don’t take him off of his leash.”
But he likes being free…
“Don’t let him take treats from strangers. He gets enough of them here.”
Sasuke pouted and mumbled to himself about how she was being too strict with Shiro and hooked the puppy to his leash. He had woken up as soon as he heard the word “treats.”
“Come on Shiro.”
Walking Shiro was more of a work out and a lesson in patience than any training Sasuke had ever done. How could a small dog weigh so much? The Shiba Inu puppy would find something interesting and refuse to move from the spot or he would give up walking. His favorite thing to try and munch on were flowers. Sasuke had to avoid people’s gardens just in case Shiro decided to chomp and destroy anyone’s azaleas or tulips.
There’s no way he acts like this for Tou-san..
Shiro stopped in the middle of the path to the training fields and started sniffing around. His head snapped to the right and Sasuke followed his gaze to a familiar blonde head. Yamanaka Ino was jogging off the path, shielding a bouquet of flowers by clutching it to her chest.
“No. Shiro. No.”
Worried that pulling on the leash would hurt the puppy, Sasuke let Shiro run and just chased after him. Sasuke sped up and tuck and rolled to grab Shiro. The two of them ended up rolling into a bush and Shiro whined.
“We’re getting you a harness.”
Ino looked around, pale eyebrows drawn together in confusion. She could have sworn she heard her classmate Uchiha Sasuke and a dog barking. Shrugging it off she continued until she reached a clearing.
Under the shade of an oak tree sat a pale dark haired boy, only a little older than she was. He was always there at around the same time, just drawing away. It’s in that exact same spot that she had found him only a few weeks ago. He had reminded her of how gloomy Sakura had once been and introduced herself to him. He told her she could call him Sai which was a little unsettling in how he said it but she still came back every day to see him.
“Uh, hey Sai-kun.”
Sai looked up and blinked up at her with inky eyes. He nodded in recognition and Ino took it as an invitation to sit down. When she sat down Sai gave her an icy smile.
“We’ve been over this,” Ino huffed. “You don’t need to smile unless you mean it. You don’t have to smile for people to like you.”
“But if I don’t smile━”
“No!” Ino put up a hand to pause him in his talking. “No smiling unless you actually want to smile.”
Sai’s face dropped into a blank look and he nodded. He turned back to his drawing of a hawk.
“I brought these for you so you could draw them.” Ino handed him the bouquet she had made. “I thought it would be a nice change from all of the animals.”
“Thank you,” Sai muttered. The corners of his mouth twitched upward but they fell back just as quick as they had rose. It was the warmest gesture he had made so far.That’s so much better. Ino beamed and watched as Sai’s charcoal danced across the parchment of his sketchbook.