"For fuck's sake, Sasuke," one very annoyed Haruno Sakura complained as she stomped her way through the empty streets of her sleeping hometown, dragging along one very drunk Uchiha Sasuke.

Well, at least that was, essentially, what she would want to be doing. In reality, though, 'stomping' was a bit too strong of a word to describe how she was currently ungraciously stumbling over every rock in the road under her male teammate's surprisingly heavy weight.

She, of course, had known that Sasuke was packed—and very, very well, at that. After all, she saw it every time he removed his shirt during training (which usually turned out to be quite problematic for her wandering eyes, but she'd discovered that she cold solve half of the problem by doing the same; only 'half', not because she was less attractive, she wanted to believe, but because the man in question had entirely too much self control). Not only that, but it appeared as though he enjoyed sleeping with his chest bare even in the dead middle of winter (driving her absolutely insane when they had to share a room—sometimes even a bed—during missions), and she could actually feel him up quite easily and surreptitiously while she healed him—and between his reckless S-ranked missions and idiotic training sessions with his stupid best friend, she usually had a lot of healing to do when it came to him.

Despite the buckets of apparent knowledge on the subject, though, the fact remained that she hadn't once imagined he'd be so heavy to lug around.

But that might have also had to do with the fact that she hadn't once imagined she'd ever be in the position of lugging him around.

What was true, she could always use her inhuman strength to put herself out her misery, but she was afraid that, in his state, all she'd manage to do was drag him for two meters and then have one of his arms give out and break off—which, despite the annoyance coursing through her veins, was not her actual purpose.

She couldn't believe he'd been so stupid as to drink as much as he had and become so thoroughly intoxicated that he couldn't tell right from left. She'd expected it from Naruto—and the blond, of course, hadn't disappointed—but she definitely hadn't expected it from Sasuke.

She'd never quite seen him in such a state before. He'd been drunk in the past, she was sure of that—if not one-hundred-percent pissed, then surely at least tipsy—and perhaps the fact that she'd always been drunk with him was the reason why she found the sober reality to be so shocking. But even after diving in the fuzziest of nights out hiding in the darkest corners of her mind where she stored all of her drunken escapades, Sakura was unable to resurface with a single memory of him being so… uncoordinated.

He couldn't stand up straight. He stumbled over his own feet, more dragging them onwards than actually lifting them off the ground to form normal steps. Every last ounce of his weight seemed to be resting entirely upon her smaller body without a single care in the world—and, usually, hating human contact with all of his might, Sasuke avoided it, funnily enough, like the plague.

Normally, Sasuke was also able to speak. He didn't want to speak, didn't consider it necessary even when it was, but sometimes he did, and he did it well; he had a vocabulary range (surprisingly… or not) much larger than Naruto's, and that worked very well in his favour when he was having an argument with someone. (It would also be worth noting, of course, that an argument was the best, and at times only, incentive for him to open his mouth.)

Briefly, Sakura wondered what exactly he'd downed. Whatever it was, it appeared to have had an excellent effect, and she considered borrowing the trick from his book to use when needed. And then he could be the one to bother with carrying her drunken ass home.

Then, as quickly as it had come, she dismissed the idea, because when she was drunk, she wasn't quiet. And Sasuke definitely wouldn't have any qualms—or physical restrictions—about slinging her over his shoulder and carrying her across the village like a caveman.

He was a good teammate, and a good man. He had his faults, though, and among them—God, he was so irritating.

Growling as she pulled him, none too gently, up the stairs that led to his apartment, cursing him and his acquiescence to live on the second floor, as well as his landlord for renting him a place on the second floor, she desperately tried to avoid having him slam into walls or break his legs by falling down the stairs—which could lead to a chain event that would involve her falling down with him, and possibly end with her own broken bones.

"Goddamn it," she cursed again as she reached the landing on the first floor and stumbled—this time, though, the open display of anger wasn't aimed at him.

It was aimed at her high heels.

She'd been out with him. Well, technically, she'd been out with Ino, having a much desired and long awaited girls' night out. They hadn't known the boys had decided on a similar way to spend their time—Sakura had also not known that Naruto and Sasuke had decided on a drinking competition as stupid as their inflated egos, and it was a luck that she hadn't planned on having any alcohol herself, due to an early shift at the hospital the following day. Because, God forbid, if she had, with how incoherent the Uchiha currently was and how many women usually eyed him when he was out in public… well, in summary, that could have ended very, very badly for him.

Taking a deep breath, not unlike someone preparing to dive underwater, she glared up the last flight of stairs and determinately started climbing them.

It was a good two minutes before she managed.

Sasuke groaned and his head lolled back against the wall, hitting it in what seemed to be a rather painful manner as Sakura propped him up against it so she could rumble in her small bag for her keys. She had spares to both Naruto and Sasuke, and even Kakashi's apartment, for security reasons. She was, after all, not only the sole medic on her old team, but also the only member with common sense.

Finally finding them, she located the needed key in an instant and stuck it into the lock, dragging Sasuke inside as soon as the door had opened.

Once there, the first thing she did was kick off her shoes. They were pretty, they were comfortable up to a point, and she could handle them better than most, but they were definitely not a good accessory to carry around when one had drunk teammates in whose aid to arrive. Next, she threw both the keys and her bag on the couch, cheering mentally when they landed perfectly in the middle. Then she turned her full attention back to her slumbering teammate, and lugged him down the short hallway, to his bedroom.

It was a surprisingly clean room. Sakura had known a bit about Sasuke's tendencies before he welcomed her inside his new apartment for the first time, but she hadn't known much and she hadn't given them enough thought to actually reach the point where she would make assumptions based on them. That being said, she had been taken aback by how neat and organized he was—surprised, as well, by how he seemed to have quite good taste for a brooding man who only ever wore navy.

He preferred dark colours even when it came to home design, that was definitely a problem, but there was nothing that stood out in an unpleasant manner, nothing that glared at her, nothing that was even remotely unaesthetic—even if it was far from her own style.

Even now, when he had left the house, probably with the intention of getting smashed in mind, his bed was perfectly made and no stray articles of clothing were in sight.

She knew her room was always a mess when she went out.

Then again, with how little free time she had and how she seemed to spend it all in the hospital, her room was always a mess.

Between its dark navy walls, cheery hardwood floors, and what were either black or even darker navy bedspreads, the only bursts of light in the room seemed to come from the window, the drapes, and the throw pillows—which, if she remembered correctly and if what little moonlight slipping inside made for good vision, were a surprising beige.

And it was exactly on those pillows that Sasuke landed when she threw him on the bed, face down, the king-sized mattress jumping along with him.

He groaned.

She rolled her eyes.

"Stupid," she muttered under her breath, shaking her head as she walked out into the hallway.

In the kitchen, she filled a tall glass with cold water and brought it back into the bedroom, setting it on the nightstand closest to him. Then, with a familiarity one usually reserved for their own house, she opened the third drawer, not even considering the fact that she could be called nosy because of it—after all, it was her drawer. She'd been the one to fill it to the brim with medicine and sanitary supplies so that Sasuke could have easy access and no excuse of the type, 'I was too tired to get out of bed' could reach her ears again. After hearing that one too many times, one day, she'd marched into his apartment and dumped an armful of supplies into that drawer.

'Now there's no need for you to leave the bed. All you have to do is reach out.' She'd smiled sweetly—dangerously—at him. He'd seemed to realize the predicament he was in, because, quite smartly, he'd remained silent.

The same process hadn't gone as well with Naruto, but as common knowledge went, he had fewer brain cells.

Popping out two of the strongest painkillers she'd provided for him, she set them down beside the water. She stood, took off his shoes in one quick movement, and then leaned over him, not a small feat considering how tall he was, and with quite a bit of more effort, managed to slide his shirt over his head. Sasuke groaned, lifting himself up on his elbows as best as he could in his state, before flopping back down on the mattress.

Sakura rolled her eyes and flung the shirt on the other side of the room, purposefully ignoring where it fell.

With a heavy sigh, she sat down beside him, choosing a spot at his hips, between him and the headboard, partially upon his pillow, while she caught her breath. The end of her long earring tickled her cheek as she groaned and let her head fall to the side to rest on her shoulder. One of her hands came up to massage the nape of her neck.

As yet another puff of air left her lips, she glanced down at his still body, the only indication of his living state being the way his back rose and fell gently with his even breaths. Shirtless as he was, it was easy for her to admire all the powerful muscles on display. His torso, hips, and part of his legs were completely flat on the mattress, his feet hanging off the edge of his large bed. His head was turned away from her, his arms resting on either side of it; all she could see was his spiky black hair, even messier than usual.

She rolled her eyes once more at the memory of his stupidity, but almost immediately, they softened, and she found herself smiling.

Naruto was funny when he was drunk. He was loud, said everything that crossed his mind, stumbled around being affectionate, giving everybody hugs, kisses, and proclaiming his undying love and devotion for his friends and his village. In a nutshell, he was an amplified version of his sober self. And when he wasn't being enough of an idiot to drink himself stupid—although 'unconscious' would be a better term—Sakura loved him that way.

Sasuke, on the other hand… Sasuke was downright adorable when he drank. He was quiet, he was sullen, all of which was normal of him, but he was also unguarded. One could see every emotion that flashed across his eyes (even though that was, most of the times, annoyance). He frowned and pouted and seemed to reflect on everything that happened a lot more than he did when he was clear-headed.

Sakura didn't want to consider the possibility that the reason for that was because he'd trained himself not to mull over painful thoughts and that the alcohol lowered his inhibitions and impaired his ability to do that.

Instead, she decided to focus on happier matters. She remembered him from New Year's Eve. Standing there, in the cold, next to Naruto, with his hands in his pockets, swaying lightly, unconsciously, without wanting or realizing, from side to side. He was the picture of calm and tranquility while the blond ran around in circles that, with hindsight, Sakura knew would cause him to be sick, jumping and yelling that he wanted pretty, colourful fireworks already!

She remembered wanting to press a kiss to his pouty, perfect lips.

But she also remembered she had been quite drunk herself, which was the perfect justification.

"You're such a dumb fuck," she told him, taking advantage of the fact that he wasn't listening.

Sasuke was never completely incapacitated or fully unconscious, except for the times when he was hospitalized, and then she was usually too worried to rave at him for whatever stupid situation he'd stumbled his way into. Now, there wasn't a single speck of concern in her system—but there was annoyance. And, if she decided to let him know about it, there was nothing he would be able to do to retaliate in any way, shape, or form. She'd never seen him so intoxicated before, and something told her she never again would.

She would be stupid not to take advantage of such a rare opportunity. Besides, after carrying him halfway across the village, Sakura told herself she deserved that.

"Who the hell drinks so much with no apparent reason?" she continued. "You and Naruto… I swear, you two are going to end up killing yourselves with your stupid challenges. You're going to walk up to each other one day and say, 'Hey, let's see who dies first,' and then you'll both be in the race to win. I thought you would stop, that you'd grow up… but honestly, you're just getting worse." Pausing, she gave a small laugh. "And, somehow, I'm always the one who ends up cleaning up your mess." Heaving a sigh, she reached out to run her fingers through his dark hair. "…If only I didn't love you so much…"

Facing away, unbeknownst to her, his eyes slowly opened, blinking in an almost drowsy fashion as they registered the sight of the navy wall across from them.

Sakura huffed. "If only… Then I would be able to leave you to drown in your own stupidity, like I do with Naruto. Although Hinata does probably take pity on him… but that's beside the point." Smiling, she resumed her original position.

When had an angry rant turned into a love confession? When had her anger dissipated, leaving fondness in its wake? She didn't know. She'd long since given up on understanding how her brain worked when it came to Sasuke.

"I love you too much to let you get in trouble, or leave you alone, or even have you throw up by yourself and not put aside any pills and a glass of water to help you in the morning, when you wake up feeling like shit because you're a dickhead."

Her green eyes turned sad as she continued to watch the back of his head and his steadily moving muscles.

Her feelings for Sasuke were, by her own choice, a secret to everybody but herself—which was probably the reason why she found herself confessing to him nearly every time he was unconscious; despite the long period of time she had been doing it, it was incredibly difficult to contain them, so she relished in the opportunity to take them off her chest.

The two of them were on good terms now. They were more than they had ever been—more than comrades, they were friends. And Sakura, fully aware of how it felt not to be an important part of his life, valued that too much to allow her petty emotions to ruin it and render their relationship to an awkward, uncommunicative mess. Sasuke didn't feel the same and she'd lost hope that he ever would. Finally, after years and years, Sakura had learned that putting herself out there, time and time again, did not necessarily mean a different outcome would ensue.

"I think I love you too much, period. And I know I should stop—God knows I've tried—but I really, honestly don't know how."

Due to their position, Sakura failed to see the response prompted by her confession: she failed to see the way his eyes opened wide and the self-satisfied smirk that spread, after a moment, on his lips.

And because of that same reason, Sasuke also failed to see the sad, defeated expression in her eyes when she spoke.

Both of them had a tough wake-up call to face after he decided to speak.

"Then maybe you should stop searching for a way," he said, his voice cutting through the silence of the room, loud and clear, with not a hint of a slur or sleepiness in it.

Sakura gasped, scrambling off the bed in an instant, while he turned on his back and sat up, his movements fluid and not at all hindered, as they had seemed to be before, by the alcohol that was supposed to be coursing through his system.

"What the fuck?" she gasped, and Sasuke almost frowned at the sight of her pale face, the whiteness contrasting with the red of her tiny dress, unlike the blush he'd expected to be met with would have. "Sasuke!"

"I knew you still loved me," he claimed with confidence, standing up, his tall body towering over her smaller figure. "Why didn't you tell me before?"

Sakura ignored his question, but not even she was entirely sure whether that was a conscious decision or she was still reeling under the effects of shock. "What the hell?" she repeated, her voice rising. "You were unconscious!"

"No," Sasuke answered simply. His mind clearly not on the subject at hand, he hurried to push it out of the way so he could move on to what truly mattered to him. "You just assumed I was unconscious—and drunk—because the dobe was."

The pinkete opened her mouth to scream—but what could she say, truly? Naruto had been beyond himself, probably unable to realize even where he was, who she was, or what was about to happen to him when she confronted him the following morning.

Sasuke hadn't spoken. He hadn't jumped to his friend's defense—no surprise there, though. He hadn't as much as flinched. He'd simply sat there, with a bored expression on his face, his cheek resting in one of his palms, eyes almost blank as they registered the sight of Naruto being beaten into the ground in front of him. Well, almost being beaten into the ground, at least—the idiot had fallen, face first, to the floor the second Sakura delivered the first slap to the back of his head. He'd gotten up with extreme difficulty, grasping at anything and everything in his path. He'd received a second blow when he'd grabbed onto Sakura's leg—and had been so slow in recovering from that, that the pink-haired woman had become bored, and thus turned her attention to her other teammate. The Uchiha still hadn't said a word, and was then holding a shot in his hand, staring at her unabashedly from behind thick, dark lashes.

She concluded that he was, as she had so eloquently put it, 'completely shitfaced', and proceeded with a very loud and informative lecture on how they were both so incredibly stupid. He hadn't retaliated, simply continued to gaze at her with onyx eyes that seemed to burn straight through her skin, and that had been enough of a big, neon sign that he was truly intoxicated.

"…Then why the fuck were you staring at me like that?" she hissed, angry.

Sasuke smirked—that trademark smirk of his that made panties drop soaked, not only wet, to the ground. But because there was nothing she hated more than being fooled, hers didn't—not this time.

"Because you're beautiful when you're angry."

They had to put up quite a fight to stay on after that particular statement, though.

For a long moment, she was silent, simply processing everything that he had said, everything that had happened, the look in his eyes, both then and now, and the desire coursing through her own veins. Along with the confusion. Along with the betrayal, because, goddamn it, what was he doing?

Reality slammed into her mind and body, all of a sudden and out of nowhere, knocking the breath out of her lungs and causing her heart to squeeze painfully in her chest.

He'd lied to her. He'd put on an act around her. He'd deceived her, purposefully and intentionally, and although, at first glance, it might not seem as such a big deal, considering he hadn't actually harmed her in any way, it was. She would have been able to understand if he had done it for fun, not failing to realize that he was, for all intents and purposes, probably a little buzzed, regardless of the stunt he had managed to pull, but she had a feeling that was not the issue at hand. She had a feeling that the reason why he'd put on such a charade was because he was annoyed, not unlike a petulant child, that she had mastered the art of hiding her feelings—after all, that was his domain, and apparently she, of all the people, wasn't allowed to cross over onto it.

Now, bizarre measures used set aside, he could rest safely and peacefully in the knowledge that she continued to love him despite everything that he had done, and, if that was the case, possibly all that he would ever do. There was no need for him to walk on eggshells with her again. There was no need for him to be careful around her. There was no need for him to be nice, and much less awkward, as if he didn't understand, as if he couldn't figure her out, as if the fact that he could no longer read her mind left him disorientated. There was no need for him to even respect her anymore.

Suddenly, she had decayed in his eyes. Once again, she'd been reverted to the predictable, foolish thirteen-year-old girl she had once been—the girl that would do anything and everything for him regardless of whether that was good or bad for herself.

The harsh truth was that Sakura had never quite left that stage. She'd always been that girl.

But, had the situation been entirely in her hands, she would have never, ever allowed him access to that piece of information again.

"What the hell, Sasuke?" she whispered, incredulously. Shrugging away from his touch, she stepped back, looking up at him with horrified eyes. "Why would you do that?"

She'd known, for a long while, that Sasuke was unsure about what she felt for him—and, in connection, about his place in her life. She'd also known that bothered him. For a man that was so used to being in control, it must have driven him insane, even, and there was no denying the fact that, to an extent, she had enjoyed that; it was definitely a refreshing change from the past. But there was more to that situation—there was also the fact that, when dealing with him, Sakura felt that she was already at a big disadvantage for loving him the way she did. She needed leverage. It was a strange sort of defense mechanism, if you will. It was what brought balance to their interactions.

However, while she'd had a feeling that balance was not exactly something Sasuke sought in their relationship, she'd never, even for a moment, imagined he'd go to such lengths to actually reduce her back to the pathetic person she used to be. And perhaps that was an exaggeration she would resent in the morning, but at that point, in that situation, he seemed incredibly cruel to her.

The smirk slipped from his face once he registered her expression. "Sakura—"

"Don't touch me," she snapped, moving further and further away, until she was out of his reach.

Sasuke blinked, completely flabbergasted. "Sakura—"

"You're just a controlling prick who thinks he has the world at his feet," she spat, before turning around and stomping out of the room. "Pretending to be drunk so you can fool me into speaking? So you can find out my secrets? That's low, Sasuke, even for you." She didn't need to glance behind to know that he was following, but she paid no mind to him as she swept up her abandoned shoes and leaned against the wall to put them on, one at a time. "But I'm not going to be that person again—not even for you." Suddenly, she stopped, and barked out a small laugh, straightening. "Especially not for you," she emphasized. "All you've ever done was take advantage of me—case in point, tonight. But I'm too smart for that now." Stalking to the couch, she snatched up her small purse and keys. "I should have been too smart for that from the very beginning." Ending her tirade, she headed for the exit, high heels knocking against the polished, hardwood floors.

She was planning on slamming the door behind her and hopefully sending a crack through the wall above when Sasuke grabbed her arm, swung her around, and did it for her, the knob slipping from her hand and the small opening she'd created suddenly closing.

"What the hell, Sakura?!" he said, but his onyx eyes lacked the anger infused in his tone; they displayed confusion and, more than any other emotion, desperation.

She avoided them as soon as she came to that conclusion.

"What are you saying?"

Shrugging out of his grasp, she almost growled, "Which part? The one in which I called you a prick? Or the one in which I shocked you by telling you I've become too smart to lower myself to your level?"

Sasuke's eyes flashed. "What the hell is wrong with you?" he demanded. "Why are you acting like this? And why did you lie to me?!"

She felt as if she were on fire, her glare burning him to the ground as she spoke slowly, nearly spelling out every one of her words for him, "Because I can."

"I deserved to know!" he snapped.

Halfway through turning once again, Sakura whipped around to face him, completely livid. "You deserved to know? Fuck you! I have things I deserve, too! I deserve to be respected, for one! You never did that! And, it's clear to me now, as long as that doesn't fit with your plans, you never will! But you deserved to know, right? Fine, now you do, so be happy and go shove it up your ass!" she screamed, before swiftly turning and attempting to wrestle with the front door again.

It seemed to open for a fraction before he slammed it closed again.

This time, she remained straight and unmoving.

"So, you think it was right of you to be lying to me all along." As he spoke, his voice was tightly restrained. His hand was white where it was pressed against the cherry wood, and the tendons in his arms were visible as they stretched on either side of her body, encasing her and leaving her with no exit.

Her own voice was a hiss pushed out through gritted teeth, her hands clenched tightly into fists. "Why would you care, Sasuke?"

"Has it occurred to you, perhaps, that it was because I wanted to know? Because it's been driving me crazy not knowing?" he snapped, slamming his hand on the door in an unexpected display of emotion.

Sakura flinched, but suppressed any other reaction. She wasn't afraid of him. Sasuke wouldn't hurt her physically, and if he did, she could definitely hold her own. The only thing she had to fear when it came to him was showing her true emotions—and, apparently, she had no need to worry about that anymore. They were out in the open. The damage was done. There was no turning back now.

A moment passed before the Uchiha chose to continue. When he did, his voice was a whisper, quiet and unsure; and when she heard it, she felt a strong urge to flee—to knock down the door and every obstacle in her way, run down the stairs, stumble into the street and never once glance back, because if she remained there and listened to what he had to say, then she had a feeling she wouldn't have the chance to pick herself off the ground again.

But she didn't. As the masochistic, stupid woman that she was, she stood there… and she listened.

"Because… because, if even you had stopped…" He swallowed audibly. "…then it would have been clear that no one ever would again. And… that's something that I needed to know."

She wasn't disappointed. Her heart, so carefully and painstakingly patched up after the last time it had been handed to him, broke with his admission.

Sakura was sixteen when she realized she would never be able to forget Sasuke. She'd held a knife to his back and tried to kill him, but only managed to cry. He'd held her neck in his hands and would have pulverized her head with a chidori had the rest of their team not arrived in time.

She'd known then—something that she should have realized a long, long time before—that he'd only cause her pain and suffering, while she'd love him forever, regardless of that. It was her curse. It was the cross she had to bear.

Over a period of time, she'd learned to accept it.

But her method of defense had always lain within the fact that he was no longer certain about her feelings. That he thought she no longer loved him. Opening up to him had been the gate she had knowingly and willingly opened to allow herself to be hurt. As long as Sasuke remained unaware that it had yet to close, then she had nothing to fear. She may be in pain, but he wouldn't know it—and that was enough, because being hurt directly by him was what she feared the most. It wasn't seeing him with other women. It wasn't knowing that he would never return her feelings. It was knowing that he was well aware of them, and that he only chose to use them in one way: against her; simply because he could.

It was painful to discover even that she had been right all along. She hadn't known that a part of her had been hoping for a different outcome—hoping for a chance.

But it was clear now—it hadn't come and it never would. Sasuke would continue to do with her emotions what he had always done: crumple them in his fist and throw them back into her face. Use them when he wanted and for what he wanted, and then disregard them. And, one day, he would find the woman of his dreams—a woman he would love and treat right. And he would tell her all about the foolish girl on his team who had loved him, throughout her entire life, despite everything he had ever done.

But the good part about being hurt so many times was that she had become used to it. She knew how to react. She knew how to soothe her wounds. She knew what she needed in order to heal. And she knew exactly how many days would pass before she could come face to face with him again and not want to burst into tears.

"Good job," she whispered. "Now you do."

The door opened again.

Then it slammed—this time, with even more force than before.

"For fuck's sake, Sakura! Do you really think I would have gone through all this trouble just to let you go again? Do you really think I would have done all of this, as if I do it regularly, just to have you run away from me? Do you think I did it all for fun?"

"No," she said. Crossing her arms over her chest, she clenched her jaw and bit her tongue. She wouldn't cry in front of him. She wouldn't break down—not then, not there. She simply refused to show any more weakness, determined to maintain at least what little dignity she had left.

As she straightened, her back brushed against his naked chest. His warm breath fanned against the top of her head. His voice sounded close to her ear.

All of that, she tried to ignore.

"You already told me why you did it. And I understood perfectly. It's more of a reason than I expected to receive, to be honest."

He sighed, exasperated, and turned her around in a movement so swift it left her speechless. "You stupid woman," he snapped.

Her voice suddenly returned.

Glaring, she opened her mouth to speak, but the chance was ripped away from her grasp.

"It's because—because if you didn't love me anymore… then I didn't want anyone else," he finally confessed, his voice, starting out loud and distressed, softening towards the end.

His demeanor was nervous. His eyes were angry. Confessions weren't his area of expertise. He was pushing the words out, forcing them to gain shape through gritted teeth, and he was doing it with the knowledge that she was worth the effort.

She was worth so much more.

If only he could prove how well he knew and how much he believed that.

"I don't want another woman. I only ever wanted you."

For a moment, Sakura forgot how to breathe. Everything inside her stomach seemed to curl up in a ball read to come up and choke her to death, and not only did she not know how to react, but she doubted she would even be capable of a reaction, in the first place.

Years of emotional pain, though, had taught her that the best way to deal with such situations was to push away from them.

And that was exactly what she did.

Slipping out of his grasp, she finally managed to step out of the apartment, running down the stairwell without a single glance behind.

Sasuke himself didn't waste a single second in following her.

"Sakura, listen—"

"Don't!" she snapped, stumbling between two sets of stairs, turning to face him. "Stop speaking. Don't do this to me. Just… just don't, Sasuke, please."

The Uchiha shook his head. Following closely in her footsteps, he was relieved to see that she seemed to have stopped running. Instead, she started to walk backwards, taking a step back for each one he took forward, until her body was met with the cold wall, and she suddenly had nowhere else to go.

Distance was not in his plans. He continued to approach until he was so close that he could feel her trembling, their bodies almost, but not quite, touching.

He cupped her face into his hands. "Sakura, listen to me," he demanded, and her green eyes flitted up to meet his involuntarily. "It's the truth. Do you understand that? Everything I said is the truth. I feel the same way. I… every time I look at you…" He groaned. "I can't describe it. I don't have the words for that. All I can say… I just want you with me. I want you in my life, Sakura, that's all I know, and it's been driving me crazy—not knowing if you still felt the same. I've tried everything—did you not notice at all? I've tried everything to make you see, to make you understand… everything to try to convince you to reveal your feelings—and nothing. The stupid dobe told me to play drunk months ago, but I thought it would be ridiculous… It was my last resort. Do you see that, Sakura? Can you understand that?"

"I don't want to understand it," she whispered, shaking her head, closing her eyes to sever the connection. "I don't want to see it." Taking a deep breath, she wrapped her dainty fingers around his wrists. "I'll ask you again… please, Sasuke, don't do this to me. You'll hurt me again, and I… I'm sick of it. I can't do it again. I can accept the fact that you know, that you needed to know… but I can't go through another heartbreak again. I can't have my hopes shut down again. I don't want any more hopes when it comes to you, Sasuke."

"I'll meet them all," he hurried to proclaim as he moved even closer, pressing his body against hers, bending his head to kiss away the tears that had formed at the corners of her eyes. "I'll meet all of your hopes and expectations. All you have to do is let me. Let me, and I promise I won't disappoint you."

Sakura shook her head even as she unconsciously leaned into him, her small frame trembling with the force and effort with which she tried to hold her sobs in.

How she wanted to believe him… For how long had she been dreaming about hearing the words that were now leaving his mouth? But it was difficult—so difficult to trust him with something he had broken so many times.

"Damn it, Sakura," he mumbled, embarrassed. "I pretended to be drunk for you. I let you carry me home. I tripped over my own feet for you. You, of all people, know me. I wouldn't do that for anybody… and yet I did it for you."

The tears came even more powerfully then, and she became unable to suppress them anymore—simply because she could tell he was not lying. Sasuke's pride was too important to him, and pretending to be a slobbering, drunken man that he never was and never would be, had all but shattered it. His confession pained a different reality, a different Sasuke with different reasons… one she wanted so much to be true.

"Please," he said again, a word she heard from him so rarely. "Just give me a chance to prove to you that I do deserve you. Give me a chance to prove that I am worthy of knowing about your feelings. Give me a chance to prove that I am capable of taking care of them."

As he spoke, he started to place small, butterfly kisses upon her face. He kissed her nose, her cheek, the corners of her eyes. Stopping, he pressed the smallest of barely there kisses to her mouth.

"Please," he pleaded, his breath fanning against her skin.

A moment passed. A heartbeat. An intake of breath.

Then, slowly, hesitantly, he felt her respond, her full lips pressing back against his—and everything around them seemed to melt until only she remained; Sakura, with him, and the future he'd been dreaming about for so long… a future in which she, without knowing, had been staring as the main character from the very beginning.

She burst into tears the very next second, pulling away only enough to avoid hitting his face as she threw herself into his arms.

Sasuke wasted no second in wrapping his arms around her tiny waist and lifting her up, holding her tightly against him, just as tightly as she held onto his shoulders and cried into the crook of his neck—tears of pain, of joy, of relief… he didn't know. He doubted she knew, either. It could be any of them. It could be all.

"I'm going to kick your ass into the next week for doing what you just did to me," she sobbed.

Sasuke smirked, pressing a kiss into her fragrant hair.

"Yes," he agreed. "You will."

She would. In a training session. The following day or whenever she chose. With a kiss before it began and after it ended.

But for now, that thought had no place in his mind.

Slipping one arm under the back of her knees, he effortlessly lifted her into his arms, climbing, without a hitch, the same flight of stairs they'd stumbled up what could only be an hour before.

For now, he only wanted her in his bed, under his covers, wrapped around his body. With her heels and make up off and wearing his shirt. With her head buried in his chest and whatever tears she had left soaking into his skin.

Because, he swore then… those would be the last she would ever spill because of him.

A/N: Drunk Sasuke is fun, but bewildered Sasuke even more! The idea hit me out of nowhere one day and I desperately wanted to write and post it.

As usual, please let me know about any mistakes that you might have found so I can correct them!

Please review!