A dismissive snort. "Tch. Pathetic."

The word rolled around in her head. Sasuke-kun was usually cold, but today he had looked at her with dead, dispassionate eyes. The insults rolled off his tongue as easily as ever, but she had been a more frequent target than Naruto. Sakura had hoped that time spent as a team would soften his attitude toward her, that they could finally be together like she dreamed. If anything, the time they shared with Team 7 was pushing Sasuke-kun further and further away.

After the disastrous mission to Wave, the boys had thrown themselves into training with a religious fervor that had intimidated her. When she tried to participate, Naruto would throw his punches and Sasuke-kun would straight up ignore her attacks. After enduring this for a week, she finally took herself off to the side, to try and work on her katas alone.

It was during this time that the boy of her dreams had deigned to look over and uttered those words.

Pathetic! I'll show you pathetic, Sasuke-kun!

"ARGH!" She was alone on the training ground now, beating one of the posts maliciously.

Stupid Sasuke-kun with his perfect eyes and his amazing jutsus and his … HIS DUMB HAIR!

Sakura threw a roundhouse kick at the poor post and was vaguely satisfied at the wavering the kick had produced.

"That is not an efficient way to train in taijutsu." Sakura froze and then turned around to see Aburame Shino behind her. He had a glass jar in one hand as he knelt on the ground, trying to scoot some specimen or other inside.

"O-oh, well, this is mostly just stress relief," she said sheepishly. "My teammates can be a handful sometimes and it gets frustrating."

"Yes, their rivalry must be distracting you from proper training, as your taijutsu form is very weak." With that, he turns his back on her to inspect a large anthill.

Sakura forgot being embarrassed in favor of immediately puffing up in anger. "I'm not weak!"

"I did not say you were weak, just your form. I do not have enough data on your other abilities to gauge your level."

She deflated and half-heartedly aimed a punch at the post again.

"Pathetic." Sasuke-kun's voice wouldn't leave her alone. She really thought he would change. She even sort of likes that annoying Naruto after being stuck with him so often. Why couldn't Sasuke-kun stop being so … ugh?!

Ugh, whatever.

She slapped at the post in a decisive manner.

I can't do this anymore. It's too much to deal with. I can barely manage to keep myself alive on missions out of the village, let alone attract a boy who won't be attracted to anything.

Maybe he'll come around someday, but she's not going to waste any more effort on the boy.

"Shino-san! Are you very busy right now?"

"I suppose it depends on your definition of "very", but I am occupied with collecting beetles at the moment. Why do you ask?"

"Would you like to spar? I know you said my taijutsu is weak, but I can't get better without practice."

"That is acceptable. I won't go easy on you."

"Bring it on!"

Twenty minutes later saw Sakura gasping for breath as Shino remained relatively unruffled, though his jacket was dirty where she got in a few good punches.

"Sakura-san, if you continue to work on your speed and form, I think you could be a formidable fighter. You have a lot more natural strength than I was anticipating." He placed a palm over his ribs, his face minutely echoing with the shadow of a wince.

She brightened. "Really? No one has ever told me that before. Kakashi-sensei seems to think I would be better at genjutsu. That is, when he bothers to deal with me instead of the boys."

Shino frowned. "Your sensei does not do individual training with you?"

She looked bewildered. "Is that a thing? Kakashi-sensei mostly sends us on D-Rank missions and oversees the Sasuke-kun and Naruto beating the hell out of each other. I try to work on my own training while they do that."

Not very well, she admitted to herself. I'm usually watching Sasuke-kun … no, just Sasuke. I need to treat him like any other teammate if I'm gonna get over these feelings.

"The reason we are assigned to jonin-sensei is for them to pass down non-clan based knowledge via various methods. Otherwise Hokage-sama is just wasting valuable resources by utilizing them as babysitters."

Sakura sighed. "Well, to be fair to Kakashi-sensei, I have not been the best pupil. I was … distracted."

Shino nods knowingly. "By Uchiha Sasuke. He is well-thought of by many of the kunoichi in our age group."

She blushed. "But not the boys, huh? I suppose us girls made it pretty obvious."

"Uchiha has enough raw talent and drive to excel, but his arrogance will lead to his downfall eventually."

She raised an eyebrow. "Arrogance? What would you call your attitude, Shino-san?"

"Confidence. I like fighting. I am good at it and I do not underestimate my opponents."

She poked him in the ribs and he visibly winced this time. "Seems like an underestimation to me, Shino-kun."

He looked vaguely confused at her teasing and he said, "I knew your form was sloppy. No matter the strength, I had the speed to win."

She laughed and patted him on the shoulder. "It's okay, Shino-kun. I know I would never have won against you."

"I did not realize we were close enough to use such terms, Sakura-chan."

She felt her face flush, but she shrugged anyway. "You have been a better friend to me today than anyone on my team has been in weeks. I can stop if you want."

"No, this afternoon has been … adequate."

"Ah, Shino-kun, we need to work on your exaggeration! It's getting out of hand." Sakura laughed again as he just stared blankly at her. "Oh well, it was a terrible joke anyway. Do you want to get some dango? My treat."


"Why not? We've spent a perfectly adequate afternoon together and it would be a shame to end it without something delicious."

"Your logic is flawed, but I find myself swayed regardless."

"Good!" She grinned at him and hooked her arm through his, carefully avoiding the jar of beetles he still had in his hand.