Sasuke and Sakura's complex relationship in Naruto is a popular topic of conversation. While many fans question Sasuke's genuine love for Sakura, he foreshadows their future relationship several times throughout the series.
Driven by revenge and power at a young age, Sasuke leaves Sakura and the Hidden Leaf behind to travel his own path. During his descent into darkness, the two are driven further apart before eventually reuniting years later. Here are five times Sasuke reveals his true feelings for Sakura both before and after leaving the Hidden Leaf in Naruto.
Sasuke First Activates his Curse Mark to Avenge Sakura
During the Chūnin Exams, Sasuke is bitten by Orochimaru when he attacks Team 7 in the Forest of Death. After Orochimaru places his curse mark on Sasuke, Sakura holds him as he writhes in pain. With Naruto and Sasuke both unconscious, Sakura is left to defend her team alone when they are attacked by three shinobi from the Land of Sound. During the 3-on-1 fight, Sasuke suddenly wakes up to see a beaten and injured Sakura.
Upon seeing her injuries, Sasuke's curse mark is activated as enormous sinister energy flows out of him. With an intimidating aura, he demands to know which shinobi hurt Sakura, who doesn't answer out of fear of what Sasuke might do. Zaku confesses he was the one to hurt her, causing both Sasuke's rage and curse mark to consume him even more. He smiles as he mercilessly breaks Zaku's arms. When Sasuke makes a move to hurt another Sound shinobi, Sakura begs him to stop and hugs him from behind. Sasuke responds to her touch, causing his marks and sinister aura to retreat.
Protecting Sakura from Gaara
When Team 7 fights Gaara in the forest after the Sand begins their attack on the Hidden Leaf, Sasuke struggles to control the effects of the curse mark. Despite his fight with Naruto, Gaara is able to grab hold of Sakura with Shukaku's hand and hold her captive. But when Gaara loses his hold, the unconscious Sakura starts plummeting to her death until Sasuke catches her. He places her gently in front of Pakkun and stares down at her for a prolonged moment before telling Pakkun to take care of her.
As Sasuke returns to their seemingly hopeless fight against Gaara, he tells Naruto they must prioritize Sakura's safety above all else. Sasuke claims his Team 7 comrades are precious to him and says he's willing to die to stop Gaara -- as long as Naruto takes Sakura away from danger. When Naruto successfully beats Gaara, Sasuke appears and tells him he did enough because Sakura is okay. Sasuke's priorities and willingness to die to ensure Sakura's safety and reveals how much he cherishes her.
Sasuke Thanks Sakura Before Leaving the Hidden Leaf
Given the bond they share, Sakura's intuition is strong enough to sense when Sasuke decides to leave the Hidden Leaf. She intercepts him at the front of the village and when he spots her, he asks what she's doing out in the middle of the night and tells her to go to bed. When she tries to argue, he says that his problems aren't her concern. While Sakura interprets this as an expression of hate and annoyance toward her, Sasuke later hints multiple times at his unwillingness to drag her into his messy and dangerous affairs. Pushing her away was in Sakura's best interest at the time, given his thirst for revenge and power.
Desperate to stay with him, Sakura offers to help him get his revenge or just go along, but Sasuke believes he's on a path she cannot follow and doesn't want to corrupt her. During her pleas, he smiles and claims she hasn't changed before appearing behind her. He thanks Sakura for everything before knocking her out and placing her carefully on the bench so she wouldn't pursue him.
Sasuke and Sakura in the Fourth Great Ninja War
Team 7 doesn't reunite until many years later during the Fourth Great Ninja War, after Sasuke has a change of heart and decides to aid in the fight. He is visibly impressed by how far Sakura has come since training under Tsunade. While traveling across dimensions to fight Kaguya, Obito and Sakura work together to find and retrieve Sasuke from the dimension he's trapped in. When they successfully open a portal to his realm, Sakura begins to pass out, believing it had closed before he could get through it. To her surprise, Sasuke appears behind her to catch and hold her tightly in his arms.
When Sasuke and Naruto agree to fight one last time soon afterward, Sakura once again tries to stop him from doing something rash. Similar to his initial departure from the Hidden Leaf, Sasuke knocks Sakura out to keep her away from the fighting under the reassurance that Kakashi is present to watch over her. After Sasuke and Naruto are equally injured and done with their fight, Sakura arrives to heal them both. Sasuke stares at her with longing and regret before finally apologizing for everything he's put her through.
Sasuke's Ultimate Gesture of Love
After the war, Sasuke decides to embark on a solo journey to atone for his sins and protect the Hidden Leaf from the shadows. While he would typically be jailed for his past crimes, Kakashi becomes the Sixth Hokage and pardons him due to his aid in the Fourth Great Ninja War. Before his departure, Sakura and Kakashi meet him at the entrance of the village to see him off.
While Sakura is sad to see him go, Sasuke needs time to figure out his place in the shinobi world. Sakura offers to accompany him but he declines because his atonement isn't her burden or responsibility. She's initially disappointed and feels rejected, but Sasuke surprises her with a forehead poke. This is Sasuke's ultimate gesture of love that he inherited from Itachi, never using it on anyone until Sakura. He once again thanks her and indicates she can come with him next time. This moment is a major turning point in their relationship, signaling the start of their blossoming romance in Naruto.