Hold Me Down

"So I hear you've been avoiding me."

Teuchi smiles at Sakura, who smiles back as Naruto chokes. She sits on the stool beside him and props her elbow on the table, her chin on her fist.

"Normally," she continues, nodding when Teuchi asks if she'll have her usual, "that's a good thing. I don't like seeing your face for prolonged periods, you know, because you usually end up pissing me off and Tsunade-sama hates getting incident reports about me."

Naruto is still coughing. Ayame sets down a glass of water near Sakura; the older girl winks as Sakura dutifully slides it over to Naruto.

"But then a few months went by. Months, Naruto." She drums a pair of chopsticks on the counter, frowning. "And the last time I hadn't seen you for that long, you were in another country. So I went to Tsunade-sama and she tells me that because of all the political crap you need to learn, you haven't been allowed out of the village since the war ended."

As she speaks, Naruto's face turns progressively greener. He's even pushed back his bowl of half-eaten ramen and occasionally his eyes flicker to the street behind. Sakura ignores this; he's faster than her now, but all she needs to do is scream at him to bring him to his knees.

Her ramen arrives then. Sakura grabs a pair of new chopsticks and starts to swirl them around in the broth. "So then," she says, "I went to Ino. And because Ino's been learning from Ibiki-san, she figured that you're feeling insecure now that Sasuke is back."

He twitches. "'M not insecure."

"And yet you're avoiding me. Not Sasuke, though." Idly, she picks up a bundle of noodles with her chopsticks and then lets them fall back into the bowl. Naruto groans in disappointment; Sakura amuses herself and does it again.

"Sakura-chan," he says after the fourth time, "that's just…you're ruining good ramen. Why are you ruining ramen?"

"I'm making a point," she says serenely.

He makes a face and says, "What point? I've been…busy, yeah, busy. The hag's making me learn all these stupid things - I bet Gaara never had to learn about freaking tariffs during the first war—"

"Naruto." He stops talking at once, looking warily at her fists. "My point," says Sakura, "is that you're avoiding me. You have been avoiding me since the war ended - which, coincidentally, is when Sasuke came back, and Ino's probably right: you feel insecure. I get that, considering what happened before." The words come out of her mouth easily enough but she still wants to wince at that winter memory. "But I don't see how that connects with you not wanting to see me."

"I…" He scratches the back of his neck. "I, uh… Don't look at me like that!" Sakura raises her eyebrows, and he mumbles, "That face, you're doing that - I don't know, Iruka-sensei makes that face at me, like he knows something I don't."

"I don't know anything for sure," she admits, "but I'll tell you what I'm thinking, yeah?" At his nod, she says, "I think that you're waiting for me to run into Sasuke's arms. I think you're avoiding me because that will hurt you, and you don't want to get hurt again. And," she says when he opens his mouth, "I think you're being an idiot, because I don't really want to run into anyone's arms."

Waiting until he mulls that over, his brow furrowing, Sakura finishes: "Mostly because that kind of hurts, and I prefer hugging people instead."

"Yeah, because it doesn't hurt when you hug people…"

She flicks his elbow. Naruto jumps and swears, and Sakura says, "That's what I think. Here's what I know: you're definitely an idiot, you're a really, really big idiot, because you have nothing to feel insecure about. We're on a date right now and I want to go on more with you."

Silence. Sakura knocks her feet against the legs of her stool as realization slowly spreads over Naruto's face. Hesitation is there, too - and it doesn't go completely away, but that's fine: Sakura plans on taking that hesitation and beating it over the head until Naruto gets it in his head that she's around to stay, for good. She's older now, she's patient enough to wait him out.

"So…" He starts to grin, too big and too happy, and she rolls her eyes to keep from grinning back. "This is a date? Like, you and me, we're on a date?"

"Yeah." She taps her chopsticks against her bowl. "So you'll be paying, right? Because I didn't bring any money with me."

He freezes. Sakura just smiles at him.

"You avoided me for months," she reminds him. "I felt like shit, by the way. So we're dating, yeah, and I like you, sure, but I'm going to make your life hell for a little while."

Naruto whimpers, and after a second Sakura takes pity on him and kisses his cheek. It's a simple action, a quick brush of her dry lips against his skin, but she feels heat rushing to his face as she slowly moves back.

"That," she says, returning to playing around with her ramen, "is an incentive. Be good, Naruto."

She glances at him from the corner of her eye: his cheeks are flushed, his eyes are blown wide, and the stupidest, silliest grin is stuck to his face. She shakes her head again, laughing, and does not pull away when he eventually slings an arm across her shoulder and shouts to the world that he's got a girlfriend who can kick his ass to next week.

Notes: I'm iffy about this? I wanted to do a dialogue-heavy scene, but at the same time I'm thinking there should be some more exposition... Ehhh. Title is, as apparently usual, taken from 31 days on livejournal (though twisted a little bit). :D