Sakura wasnt sure when Saki-chan became just another foible of the eminently vice-ridden and idiosyncratic jounin elite. At first it was strange. Very, very strange, and she spent more than one spare hour wondering if she could help Sasuke through whatever troubled him so much. Then, as time passed and she saw how much calmer he seemed, she accepted it as an unsightly but necessary outlet for issues he couldnt deal with on his own otherwise.
She convinced herself it was a temporary stepping stone.
His little outlet started taking over most of his free time, though, until he was almost always Saki-chan when they werent actively on a mission. It was awkward, but she told herself that she would support him, if thats what he needed.
And somewhere along the line, she got used to it. The same way she got used to the fact that Naruto and Saki-chan were together.
So today when, while shopping with Ino, Sakura spotted a lovely black blouse with long, belled lace sleeve, her first thought was how much Saki-chan would like that. She was already checking the price tag when she realized what she was doing, and started laughing right there in the middle of the store.
Ino immediately looked at her, then looked at the price tag, and her brow scrunched into an eloquent frown. Its not really you, but its not that bad, she commented bemusedly. And its not that expensive.
Oh, no, Sakura explained, still giggling. Its not that. I was just thinking of getting it for Saki-chan.
Oh? Ino asked, frown fading as she looked at the blouse again. Shed like that--you should...
And she paused.
And she blinked.
And Sakura could see it as the pieces fell into place behind Inos eyes, realizing just what they were thinking of buying for whom, and how, if you stripped away twelve years or so, he was the love of their young, stupid lives.
Sighing, Ino pulled the blouse off the rack and smoothed it against the others. He lips were twitching toward a patient smile. Strange how it can just blindside you like that after all this time, isnt it?
Sakura shrugged uncomfortably. I suppose so. Its just been so long since I didnt think that its normal. Then she amended, Or normal for him, at least.
No stranger than Jiraiya-samas peeping, at least, Ino agreed. Or Godaime-samas gambling debts. And it is a nice top. It would go well with the black pleated skirt.
Sakura winced at the mention of the Hokages debts and did her best not to think of that too closely. It was so strange at first. She paused, watching Ino. Youre right, it would.
Hm. In folded the shirt neatly and held it to her chest. It was. The asshole has nicer legs than me.
Its not just that, Sakura said, laughing. I mean, how Saki-chan acts. Its totally the opposite of what youd expect from Sasuke. Even the clothes... Its all so frilly and feminine. I would have thought--not that I did think it, but if I had to--that Sasuke-kun would if he was going to do that. I would have thought hed be more... she trailed off, looking for the word.
Ballsy, Ino supplied. Aggressive. And if he had to be sexy, more sleek and less lace. Definitely not demure.
Sakura nodded. Exactly. Though, maybe not quite. I dont know. Something traditional, maybe? Youre right though, nothing demure like that.
Neither of them had anything immediate to follow that with. Sakura couldnt help but think of the first time she met Saki-chan. How shed had to look twice to tell it was Sasuke, and three times to see that he was male, as odd as that sounded. She remembered Naruto seeming protective of Sasuke, and how incredibly bizarre that struck her, and how Sasuke had honestly seemed uncomfortable that Sakura had been unsettled. The whole meeting had been terrible, and Sakura still half wondered if Saki-chan had cried afterward. Because Saki-chan could do that, even if Sasuke would have died first.
She remembered being disgusted herself by Saki-chan with her makeup and her frills and her lace and laces and buckles and stalking-garters and stacked heels. All so much frivolous trash that would weigh down a kunoichi. And all things that Saki-chan could wear because she wasnt a kunoichi. Sasuke was a shinobi, but Saki-chan was just a girl, and she didnt have to be anything. Nothing, that is, but a girl in the most extreme sense. Someone who let doors be opened for her. Someone who let other people pick up the tab. Someone who blushed when men told crass jokes and preferred to avoid violence. Someone who could let herself be taken care of and protected by someone like Naruto.
Sakura sighed sadly and shook her head. I suppose we didnt know him as well as we thought.
If that isnt the understatement of the decade, Ill buy you lunch, Ino said, handing the blouse to Sakura. Come on. Buy that. Well drop it off for Saki-chan, and then... I think we both deserve chocolate.