Naruto blinked himself awake, laying sprawled on his bed. He frowned, feeling something on his forehead, and reached up.
Carefully, he lifted a centipede and eyed it. "Huh?"
"Good, you're awake," a voice said, and Naruto nearly shrieked.
He sat up straight, staring at the hooded figure standing at the end of his bed. "Sh-sh-shino!" he cried, panicking briefly.
Oh, no, Shino had found out about the hot spring! And now he'd come to claim Naruto's soul! "W-w-what are you d-d-doing here!"
Shino stared at him (or at least, Naruto thought he was being stared at) for a few minutes. "Hinata..."
Oh shit I'm gonna die, Naruto thought, eyes wide. "Y-yeah?"
"You sound like Hinata," Shino said after another pause.
Naruto gave a slightly hysterical bark of laughter. "Y-y-yeah? O-o-okay..."
Silence. Shino wondered if Naruto was on some sort of drug product. Obviously, because the blond had never acted like this
towards him before. He sighed. "I have come to ask your intentions, Naruto-kun."
"No intentions!" Naruto yelped without even thinking.
Silence. The centipede squirmed between Naruto's fingers. He dropped it. It quickly escaped to the foot of the bed, and
Shino picked it up, letting it go up his sleeve. "No intentions?"
Naruto gulped. "F-f-for now. S-S-Sasuke... gotta... g-g-get Sasuke... first..."
"I see..." Shino sighed again. Perhaps Naruto was gay? He was acting like Hinata did around him, and she did it
because she had a crush on the blond. Maybe Naruto had a similar reaction around his beloved? …. Ew. Shino suppressed
a shudder. "And then?"
"T-t-then... then... Um..." Naruto drew a blank. Then? Then what? He wasn't sure, actually. "Um... Well... then..."
He blinked. Wait, so Shino didn't know about the hot spring? Naruto could cry with relief. "Well, I told her then we'd talk
Shino nodded thoughtfully. The stutter was gone. Perhaps it had been for another reason then (he could not help his relief
at this thought). "Good. You will treat her with respect." Pause. "Or I will kill you."
"S-s-sure!" Oh no. He was going to die!
The stutter was back. Fear? Shino smirked, and the blond scrambled away from him. "Good. Then we understand each other?"
Sure!" Naruto yelped, voice high pitched with terror.
"Good." Shino reached down and picked a large beetle up off of the blankets. "Have a good day, Naruto-kun," he said,
and walked out of Naruto's room. A beat later, the front door clicked shut.
Naruto slumped on the bed. Oh gods, did he just see his life flash before his eyes?
Sakura blinked at Naruto as the blond approached her and her sparring partner of the day. "Naruto? What're you doing here?"
"I think I gave the wrong impression, so I wanted to apologize!" the boy explained, pointing at Shino.
Shino did not reply. He was staring (or at least Sakura thoughthe was staring) at the bag in Naruto's hands. "What's
that?" Sakura asked after a beat.
"His favorite foods!" Naruto chirped.
"... my what?" Shino asked, leaning slightly back.
Sakura frowned. "How the heck do you know his favorite foods?"
"He told me! A while ago... we were on a mission, and he started randomly telling me stuff, 'cause of teamwork,
but anyway, here!" He held out the bag and Shino cautiously took it.
Silence fell. "What is this?" Shino asked.
"Wild grass and winter melon!" Naruto said, pouting. Personally, he didn't get the grass thing, but whatever.
"... this looks like lawn grass, Naruto-kun," Shino said.
Naruto laughed sheepishly. "Okay, so it's not wild... but it's the thought that counts, right?"
If anything, this seemed to make Shino wilt a bit. He sighed and pulled out a piece of watermelon, nibbling on it. "I like
wild grass salad," he said after a moment. "But the melon is okay."
Sakura rolled her eyes toward the sky. "Naruto, do you everlisten to a word anybody says?" she asked irritably.
"Yes!" Naruto retorted, offended. "I got the melon right! Even if I forgot the salad thing..."
Shino frowned faintly but got out another piece of melon. This was actually pretty good, he mused. Where hadthe
blond gotten it? He gave Naruto a glance, and then frowned. No, maybe he didn't want to know.
Sakura was a little later getting home that night than she'd planned, but walking in to find Ino
sitting thatclose to Itachi made her stand stock-still in the door of the living room. Both glanced up, and their stares
lingered. Ino's face paled rapidly and Itachi's brow arching in mild confusion.
"Hi, For- Sakura," Ino said nervously, attracting a brief glance from the Uchiha sitting next to her.
In those first few seconds, Sakura was frozen in place. The bottom of her stomach dropped out, and she swallowed. Somehow,
she felt like crying, but told herself that was silly. There wasn't anything between her and Itachi. They weren't a couple
or anything. Ino had already told her ages ago that if Sakura really wasn't interested, the blonde would pounce.
And Sakura had been saying for a while that she wasn't interested. Or had she? No, just that there wasn't anything between
them. That stung greater than anything, and she realized, no there wasn't, but that didn't mean she didn't want there to be.
Itachi was handsome, and a gentleman, and even very sweet in his own way. He always considered her feelings and never let
her run away just because a situation got uncomfortable, which generally solved a lot of problems quickly and efficiently.
Just his style.
Hell, the guy was practically perfect, and she'd just missed out. She drew a shaky breath and then smiled brightly at them.
"Oh! Sorry for interrupting! I'm gonna go take a shower and go to bed," she almost gushed. "I'm exhausted! Have fun!" With
that, she fled.
Or, she tried to. Before she quite knew it, he'd somehow got around the couch and stood next to her, fingers clamped around
her wrist like an iron vise. His eyes were narrowed in irritation, and when she pulled at her arm, she found that like always
he was refusing to relinquish his grip.
"No," he said, frowning slightly.
"No." He shook his head, and waited patiently for her to give up. He turned to look at Ino. "Thank you for your
assistance, Yamanaka-san. You can find the door, I presume?"
Ino nodded quickly. "Uh huh! You go talk her down!" she said, waving him off and scooping up an armful of catalogues. "I
have to meet Shika in ten minutes anyway!"
Sakura didn't quite know what to say as her best friend quickly departed, and so she didn't say anything. She waited. It
wasn't like she could go anywhere, and anyway a part of her didn't want to. Once the blonde was gone, Itachi ushered her to
the couch and made her sit down.
"We need to speak, I believe," he said slowly, sitting down with her. He had yet to release her wrist. Taking a
deep breath, he visibly forced himself to relax and finally loosened his grip on her. "Sakura-sa- no. Sakura."
She swallowed and lifted her brows, wondering what he was going to say. After a beat, she coughed. "Yes?"
"I want..." He stopped, pressed his lips together, and studied her face. "Would you like to have dinner with me?"
Sakura blinked, and arched a brow. She glanced over her shoulder in the general direction of the kitchen. "Uh..."
"A date, Sakura. You're not that dense," he chided.
Silence. Oh, she thought blankly. Then, Oh. More silence. She scrambled suddenly for something to
say, and managed a terse, "What."
Itachi's eyes narrowed, but he dismissed the thought that she was being deliberately obtuse instantly. Then revisited it.
Actually, she probably was. Sighing, he decided to elaborate. "You and I. I want us to go out, for dinner, on a date. Enjoy
conversation, have a nice time and maybe, just maybe, do it again if we like it."
Randomly, she thought about the end of date kiss. Would it be weird? They lived in the same house. Wait, back up, Sak.
We're still in the 'he's asking me out' phase! Don't get ahead of yourself!Shaking her head, she gave him a tiny smile.
"Um... sure?" she ventured, feeling slightly shy. Her brow furrowed then. "What was that with Ino, though?"
He sighed and released her hand to rub the back of his neck, as if the mere thought of the blonde exhausted him. She could
sympathize. "I was thinking about putting in a garden. I had asked her to consult me on seasonal flowers and plants."
'Oh,' she mouthed, and fell silent. For a moment, it was awkward, but then as she lapsed into thought, it became
almost comfortable. She was thinking about the idea of dating Itachi. Going out with him. For real. They already shared a
house, but she'd pretty much chalked that up to coincidence.
Ino had tried to convince her that it was fate yesterday, and Sakura had nearly died with mortification when Lee overheard
and bounded over to exclaim over their youthfulness. Which had inevitably drawn in Gai, and then Kakashi who yawned and somehow
walked away with a spar date with Gai and- Sakura cut off that line of thought, shuddering.
Kakashi and Gai. Those two always either freaked her out or pissed her off. Sighing, she looked up to find Itachi watching
her. She forgot what she'd been about to say for a beat, and luckily he got there first.
He sat up. "When do we want to go?" he asked, then added, "I mean, we'll have to pick a time when we don't have work or..."
He stopped, refusing to say 'something', and tried a different approach. "Saturday?"
She blinked and thought back through her schedule, brow furrowing. "Well, I don't have anything planned for then, yet,
but that's still five days away." And a lot could change in five days. They were shinobi, after all.
The Uchiha quirked a brow. "Are you impatient for something, Sakura?" he asked, and his voice was almost a purr, and damn,
did she knowhe could talk like that?
Sakura felt her face heating up entirely without her permission. "No," she said instantly, and then winced internally.
"I mean... well, I... um, you just..." She stopped and scowled when she realized he was silently laughing at her. "You're
doing that on purpose!" she accused, poking at his chest.
He caught her finger and smirked faintly. "Doing what, Sakura?" he asked, voice the same silk and melted chocolate. He
tugged on her hand and then clasped the rest of it between long fingers, bringing it up to his lips. Butterflies danced in
her stomach when he kissed each knuckle, not once looking away from her eyes.
… damn. Just damn. "Uh..." She swallowed, unable to look away. Apparently, he didn't even needthe Sharringan
to hypnotize her. "I... um..." She'd been trying to say something, hadn't she? Like... what was it... something... yeah. That
was it. Something.
Itachi finally looked down at her hand and turned it over, pressing a kiss to her palm before releasing her from his grasp.
"Have you eaten?"
Sakura blinked, feeling at a sudden loss once she realized he'd released her from his spell. The butterflies in her stomach
panicked briefly before dying under the embarrassed wrath of the long-since-seen Inner Sakura. "Um, yeah. Earlier," she said,
shaking her head. What the hell? Why in the world was she acting like some... some... skittish sixteen year old?
It wasn't until he'd walked off, saying something about a long soak in a bath, that she realized she had one of Naruto's
trademark goofy grins on her face. She couldn't bring herself to wipe it away.
Sitting alone, cold, angry... the fury is enough to warm him. He's so angry. So pissed. On his knee, his fingers tighten
in their fist, and he ignores the ache. Suddenly, he's moving. A picture on the bedstand shatters.
Silence falls, and slowly he gets to his feet. He steps silently across the room, hurting all over. He shivers, and
picks up the fallen picture frame. Inside... a family. He's beaming up at the camera, with a woman behind him holding him
and smiling with equal brilliance. To his left stands a figure with their face cut from the picture, but he knows it's Itachi.
Behind them all stands an imposing male. His father.
The picture drops from numb fingers and he spins on his heel. The door shatters with Chidori, and fury, and hatred.
Sakura screamed as she sat up in bed, soaked in chilling sweat. Her eyes were wide, her hands holding kunai- two each.
For a moment, the sight of Itachi standing in her doorway infuriated her, and she almost threw the weapons. He tensed, but
she didn't move.
Silence fell, broken only by her panting. Finally, Itachi stepped into the room and moved over to her side, around the
foot of her bed. He gently took the kunai from first her right hand - the closest to him - and then her left, setting them
down on the bedstand. He sat on the bed next to her and brushed sweat-damp hair from her face.
"Sakura?" he said softly, brow furrowed.
She shuddered and slumped against him, closing her
eyes. "Oh my god," she whispered, feeling his arms encircle her. "Oh my god... Oh my god..." It was all she could seem to
make herself say.
He gently rubbed her back, the action soothing her more than any words he could have said. She slid her arms around his
waist and buried her face in his shirt, biting her lip to keep back the tears. They stayed that way for a very long time.
Somewhere around half an hour later, Itachi felt her shift against him. She hadn't cried, but for a while he had almost
thought she would. When he'd heard her scream and run to the room, the first thought he had was that she was being attacked,
but it was only a nightmare. Still, the look in her eyes when she saw him was... It was the look in Sasuke's eyes when they
met. Full of anger and hatred and a sorrow so deep it almost broke his heart.
It made him wonder what she'd dreamed, but he was hesitant to ask. Especially since she'd offered no sort of explanation
for it. She hadn't even tried to tell him. She'd just curled up in his lap and hung on to him like he would disappear again.
Eventually, he'd decided that he wouldn't pry and would let her tell him if she thought he should know.
It was the best course of action, even if he wanted to ask her anyway.
Sakura disrupted his thoughts at that moment. She stirred, and suddenly shoved him over so that he was laying on his back
with her on top of him. She crawled up him to straddle his waist and then stared down at him. Their eyes met, and he was somewhat
surprised to find, rather than desire or intent, that her face was blank. No expression, no hidden thoughts reflected in her
Then she leaned down and kissed him. He tangled the fingers of one hand in her rosy hair, near the base of her skull, clasping
her neck so that she couldn't suddenly pull away. She had pinned his left hand in place, so it was really all he coulddo.
Well, in this situation, at any rate.
The kiss was spicy, and it suited her somehow. Their tongues battled for dominance, curling around each other hungrily,
mapping out each other's mouths. She made full use of her tongue and her teeth, nipping his bottom lip once or twice before
continuing her exploration. It was sticky, breathless, hot, spicy and everything in between. Filled with desire and dominance
and... and almost anger. Anger at being betrayed, being left behind too many times for her to count. Frustration with her
perceived weakness, her helplessness.
Itachi tangled their legs and heaved them into a roll, pinning her to the bed and taking full control of the kiss. He deepened
it, fingers sliding up her shirt, splayed out on her stomach. Her skin twitched beneath his questing fingers while her fingers
tangled in hishair, and he wondered when she'd pulled out his hairtie.
He pulled his mouth away, smirking at her irritated sound, then mouthed her pulse. He sucked the flesh, bringing a flower
of color blooming to the surface of her skin, leaving behind red and trailing downward. Fingers scraped against the cloth
of her bra, then slipped underneath and shoved it up. She was making tiny sounds of pleasure, arching up into his touch, his
mouth, demanding more without any words needed.
Her hips shifted, rubbing against his, and he groaned softly as he stirred to life. And then- the click of the front door
shutting made them go still.
"Sakura-chan!" a familiar voice called. "You home?"
"I'll kill him, I swear to the gods, I'm going to murderhim," Sakura growled, abruptly shoving Itachi
off her and sitting up. She barely had time to straighten her shirt before Naruto was pushing open her already half-open bedroom
door. He didn't have time to note Itachi's presence or the way her hair was so mussed before the kunoichi lunged and tackled
He yelped. "Ack! Sakura-chan! Ow, ow, ow! That hurts- Sakura-chan!" the blond yowled, and then vanished out from beneath
He reappeared on the other side of the room and pulled a kunai out of the wall where he'd thrown it. His gaze finally found
Itachi. Silence fell, and he looked over as a royally pissed off medic climbed to her feet and advanced. He looked at Itachi
again. Itachi's hair was undone. And messy. Not to mention Itachi's pantswere undone and- Ohhhh. Shit. Naruto looked
back at Sakura, eyes widening with a combination of hurt and bewilderment.
"Sa-Sakura-chan?" he breathed, lip trembling.
The look on his face seemed to help cool her temper and she stopped three feet away. She sighed and dropped her fist, then
lifted it to run shaky fingers through her hair. "Haven't you ever heard of knocking, Naruto?" she demanded after a beat,
feeling irrationally angry.
He pouted. "I did. You didn't answer," he said, effecting the wounded puppy look.
Sakura refused to blush, realizing she hadn't heard because she'd been... distracted. She looked at Itachi, whom was calmly
finger-combing his hair and glancing around for his hairtie. Sighing, she nodded. "Knock, and if no one answers, there's a
reason," she instructed the blond. "Now what do you want?"
He sheepishly scrubbed his hand through the hair at the nape of his neck, laughing. "Ah, well... you've got today and tomorrow
left of your week's leave, so I thought maybe you'd want to spar... you know, keep in practice." He pouted again. "But um...
if you're busy-"
She heaved a sigh. "No, no, it's fine. Just... go out and wait in the living room for me to get dressed."
glanced at Itachi and opened his mouth, but Sakura was already grabbing the Uchiha's wrist. He looked at her with raised brows
and smirked in faint amusement when she started to shove him toward the door. "You do not wish for my help?" he asked, and
then stumbled when she shoved him harder than necessary out the door.
She pushed the blond out next and then scowled at them both. "No." And she slammed her bedroom door shut in their faces.
Naruto looked at Itachi with narrowed eyes. "You were trying to have sex with Sakura-chan," he accused.
Itachi lifted a brow and shrugged, turning away to head across the hall for his own room. He paused before shutting the
door and smirked at Naruto. "She started it." The door shut quietly behind him.
Naruto groaned and stalked off to wait outside. Stupid Uchihas.
Sakura and Naruto went out of the Uchiha compound and headed for their usual training grounds, where the two of them spent
a few moments loosening up before each took fighting stances. "Can we use jutsu?" Naruto asked. "I want to test my newest
two against a living person."
Sakura thought about it and nodded. "Yeah, sure. I've been working on something with Shizune that I want to test anyway."
The blond beamed, and dashed forward, starting out with his favorite jutsu. "Tajuu Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" he cried, and
three clones leapt for her.
She twisted away from one, fingers glowing with chakra. One hand caught the hand of another Bunshin and she twisted him
heels over head, tossing him into another, satisfied with the pops as they both dispelled.
Naruto slapped her back and she drew her elbow back, sending him flying. Two seconds later, she stood panting lightly,
glancing around. He'd vanished. Growling, she took the moment to sharpen the chakra on her fingers, creating the chakra scalpel
she and Shizune had been working on.
A shadow was cast over her face and she looked up, then jumped aside as the clone landed, the Rasengan creating a small
crater in the ground. Her hand swiped along it's throat, cutting the tendons, and it dispelled.
A pained yelp to her right had her spinning and thrusting her hand forward. Naruto grabbed her wrist and shoved it aside,
fist slamming into her chest. She grunted and decked him with the other hand. He dispelled.
Then he was suddenly behind her, arms wrapping around her shoulders to pin her own arms to her sides. She kicked off the
ground, flipping up and knocking him back. The move forced his arms to loosen and she escaped. Her fist met the ground, cracking
it for several meters, and she frowned. Not a clone, he'd just... vanished?
He slapped her back again, and she barely managed to avoid the flurry of shurriken with a back handspring. Several in a
row separated them enough and they circled. Silence fell as they panted, eyes never leaving the other. She blinked sweat from
her eyes, and he vanished.
His arms wrapped around her waist this time, pinning her wrists to her and forcing her to release the renewed scalpel or
risk injuring herself. She was somewhat shocked that he kept managing to get behind her. How? She would sense his approach,
but it wasn't like he was running up to her. One minute, no one was there, the next Naruto was once again disabling her.
"How?" she panted, staying still to listen for the explanation.
He grinned and squeezed her in a hug, then let her go. "One of my new jutsu. Hiraishin."
She turned and blinked at him. "The yondaime's Hiraishin?" she asked, shocked.
He nodded and adjusted
the cloak he wore, grinning. "Yup! And wanna see what else?" he asked. He pulled a kunai from his holster and attempted to
stab the fabric of the cloak. It didn't work. There wasn't even a dent.
Brows lifting, she reached out and fingered the soft material. "How?" she repeated, fascinated.
"It's a nin cloak. Eehh, haori. Thing." The blond shook his head, and shrugged. "Well, whatever. It was a gift from
Gaara, since I didn't have one. There are special jutsu woven into the fabric to make it impenetrable and stuff. The kages
wear them; it's what the kage cloaks are."
It made sense, she mused. The nin cloaks would protect the kages from harm, which was a big part of being kage. Surviving.
"I see," she murmured, dropping the cloak and smiling at him. "Shall we continue?"
He grinned back. "Yeah!" he cheered and flickered from sight.
She growled irritably and got into a stance, focusing on her senses. He wouldn't fool her this time!