Disclaimer: I own nothing relating to Naruto. All rights belong to Masashi Kishimoto.
"All I'm saying, Forehead, is that it wouldn't kill you to have some interaction with the opposite sex . . . that doesn't include Sasuke and Naruto." Ino waved her perfectly manicured hand in lazy circles as if to prove her point. She was sitting opposite Sakura in a little local bakery, and it was a Sunday around six in the morning, and while Sakura would have had no qualms about throwing on some sweats and whatever sweater her hands found first, it was days like this that she was glad she'd thrown on a plain black dress, half-sleeved and stopped right before her knees, along with gray tights, all of which had the consistency of a sweater. Glad, because there was Ino across from her, legs crossed daintily over each other, leaning back in her chair like it was a throne, and dressed in nothing worse than her Sunday best – meaning, brand-name skinny jeans and a button-down blouse that matched her eyes and high heels that Sakura highly suspected cost more than her whole wardrobe.
To be fair, Sakura had been dressing, in Ino's words, like "A tired housewife whose closet was adorned in nothing but baby food stained T-shirts and grungy jeans," with a shudder inserted somewhere in there.
Honestly, Sakura couldn't care less, and she was just as likely to pull on a dress and tights as sweats, so if Ino felt better with seeing her in a dress, so be it. She was just as comfortable as she was, and was well known to go to her university classes in a dress and tights – likely with one of her many scarves thrown on as well – so she wasn't really complaining. Unlike popular belief, she did actually like to look good when she went out in public. She was just . . . unmotivated to do so, sometimes.
Sakura took a sip of her raspberry tea, moving the cream colored mug around in her hands to warm them up, her rings clicking against the surface of it. It was between fall and winter right then, the pinnacle moment when the air couldn't decide if it wanted to freeze her or just blow the occasional chilly breeze, and would differ to each option every now-and-then.
Ino frowned at her, her perfectly red lips twisted into one of her more well-known pouts. Sakura smirked at her good-naturedly. "It was already bad enough how much time you all spent together before, now that you're living together – which I still cannot get over – they're going to be even clingier."
Sakura blinked lazily at her and bit back the yawn making its way up her throat. "I really don't think living together is going to change that."
Ino just gave her a blank look, and Sakura grinned innocently at her. Ino sighed and circled a red-painted fingernail around the rim of her coffee, blueberry muffin untouched next to it. Sakura had already devoured her cinnamon scone, and was eyeing Ino's muffin.
Seeing her stare, Ino rolled her eyes and pushed her plate with the muffin at Sakura. Sakura didn't need to be told twice. "And you call me the pig."
"Because you are, Pig," Sakura mumbled between bites. Oh . . . it was soft. "You just don't ever have an appetite in the morning."
Sakura folded her ankles together under the table they had claimed as their own on these mornings, next to the windows and the farthest away from the doors and the gust of cold air that entered the shop every time someone walked in. Which was too often if you asked Sakura.
"You had all that amazing eye candy," Ino groaned, not for the first time and despite Sakura's many, many protests, most likely not the last, either. "You had all those hunkalicious men, all wanting your fabulous body, and you. Just. Left."
Sakura just took another bite of muffin. Oh . . . it was still warm in the middle, too.
Ino huffed. "And you don't even care! I swear, if it was any other woman, they'd be jumping for joy at your predicament."
Sakura swallowed and dabbed a napkin to the corners of her lips like a proper lady . . . who just ate a muffin twice the size of her fist in about three bites. "I told you what Mikoto said. She wasn't going to let me leave without a ring on my finger and a Uchiha fan tattooed somewhere on my body."
Ino blinked at her. "You say that like it's a bad thing."
Sakura glared. "It is a bad thing. Especially since Mikoto most likely flooded my apartment."
Ino leaned back in her seat and made a pitying sound in her throat. "That is a shame. You had some really cute shoes, too."
Sakura rolled her eyes and checked her phone . . . which had three missed calls and about a dozen text messages. Shit.
She stood up suddenly. "I gotta go. Those morons are likely to ruin all my hard work if I don't get back."
Ino's eyebrows rose. "You mean to tell me Naruto's actually up right now." She glanced at her watch. "But it's not even noon yet."
Sakura gave a devilish smirk. "Yes, well . . . I may have let the dog into his room before I left." Ino just raised her eyebrows higher. "And I left before the screams started."
"Cruel woman." Ino smirked. "I like it."
Sakura gave her a smirk of her own and grabbed her purse from the empty seat next to her, pulling it over her head as it rested at her hip. "Next Sunday, same time?"
"Hell, yeah. We haven't done this in forever. And now you have fewer hours at the hospital, right?"
Sakura nodded. "I'm still getting over being sick, and you know how Naruto and Sasuke react to something like that. I'm on mandatory paid leave until my prison guards decide I'm not going to kneel over and die." She rolled her eyes, but there was no bite to her words.
It turned out when she'd been at the Uchiha mansion that it hadn't been a simple cold she'd caught, but the flu. Or at least, it had started out as a cold, and then the moment she got away from all the perverts at the mansion, she was bedridden at Ino's. It hadn't helped that she had literally no clothes of her own and only a handful of possessions left from the flooding (that of which included the shoebox of Sasuke's gender-bender child photos via Mikoto, thank Kami). She also had to deal with the fallout and paperwork and insurance and all that other adult crap she hadn't wanted to deal with.
But it turned out she didn't have to. Whether she wanted them to or not, Naruto, Sasuke, and Ino had all banded together and made sure everything was taken care of. Sakura got an extended paid leave from the hospital and was excused from all her classes. Naruto and Sasuke even went so far as to meet with all of her professors and get any notes and assignments they could, since they knew her well enough that she would only make herself sicker with the thought of all the work she was missing. She knew that with the Uchiha's, Uzumaki's, and Yamanaka's clan heirs' influence, these things weren't all that difficult. A few phone calls, a few name drops, and everything was hunky-dory.
Naruto and Sasuke (mostly Sasuke) even went apartment hunting without her. When they found something they thought was reasonable, they'd send her photos, and she'd yay or nay it. When they got down to a handful of options, Sakura got to come out of her cave of chicken noodle soup and warm blankets and ventured out (with Naruto and Sasuke's insistent codling, of course) to look at the prospects herself.
After forcing Sasuke to give her all the information on the apartment and after doing the math herself about how much they'd have to split the cost of living between them, Sakura figured she could do it, even with her pathetic price range.
Both Naruto and Sasuke had attempted to probe and coerce her into not paying her part of the rent – in much the same way they tried to prevent her from ever paying for her meal when they went out – saying that they could just cover everything themselves.
And it was true. The inheritance they each had was ridiculous. They could both easily pay the full rent of this place and three others just like it without thinking twice. In fact, at first they had tried to get her to look at much, much pricier living areas – penthouses and the like – but Sakura saw through that BS right away and smacked them down. Firstly, they didn't need all that space and Sakura could totally see herself as having to clean a ridiculously large apartment filled with ramen cups and manuals on how to destroy the human race, and she just wasn't up for that. (When she'd brought this issue up, Sasuke had the gall to recommend hiring a maid . . . or just stealing one of the ones they already had working at the Uchiha mansion, and so Sakura – being the woman she was – gave him quite the little beat down for that one. She was going to teach those two damn clan heirs the meaning of personal responsibility and how to clean up after themselves if it was the last thing she did.) This way, they each had their own living area and could stick to it, and then rotate a cleaning schedule for the other main parts of the place.
They'd finally decided on a bit pricier place than Sakura would have liked, but she could still manage, about five miles away from the hospital and even closer to her university, which was the main selling factor for her. It was mostly hardwood flooring with some teal carpet in the bedrooms (three in total) and tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms (two in total). It was on one of the higher floors of the complex, and so they only took the elevator in getting to it, much to Sakura's glee at not having to climb an insane amount of stairs everyday like she had to do at her last place.
Sakura only saw it once before she had to recede into the den of hot tea and many, many medicine boxes at Ino's place. But she trusted Naruto and Sasuke enough to make a decent decision (well . . . she trusted Sasuke in this sense). And, honestly, she just wanted a place to live at that point.
And then came the shopping.
Ino was a godsend during this time, and helped pick most of Sakura's stuff out for her. She had received a decent amount of insurance money to replace all her damaged items (how that happened, she had no idea. Sakura couldn't remember ever getting flooding insurance, but she also highly suspected Sasuke had made some calls on her behalf. At least, that was her best guess based on how polite and generous the man had been when she'd talked to the insurance company. Seriously . . . no insurance was that friendly), but had been too sick to go out and do the shopping herself, so the only other option Sakura had seen was letting Naruto and Sasuke pick everything out (shudder). Kami only knew what she would end up with.
But then Ino had stepped in (and on, in that one case when one of Ino's blood red stilettos had made contact with Naruto's face) and taken care of Sakura's furniture and . . . everything else.
Which was how she came to end up with more dresses and kitten heels than she ever cared to own. Really, though.
By the time Sakura recovered and left Ino's (despite Ino's own protests and not-to-subtle hints at tying her down to the bed and Mr. Yamanaka's insistence that she was always welcome there, and the again not-so-subtle hints that she was the only decent example in Ino's life, Kami help that fashion obsessed girl and his thinning wallet), Ino had already had all Sakura's new things shipped to the new apartment.
Sakura hadn't known what she had been expecting, but Ino came through for her . . . mostly. She could have done without all the pink, but at least it was a soft, dull pink and not a hot, neon pink that Ino had threatened her with.
On multiple occasions, Sakura had attempted to explain that despite her odd natural hair color, pink was not her favorite color. But – apparently – that was a moot point.
Turned out, both Naruto and Sasuke had gotten her other, more extravagant "housewarming" gifts (which she still didn't understand, since they were all living together) in their own personal colors. So what that meant for her was that the apartment was a rainbow mess of pink, blue, and orange.
"Oh," Ino suddenly said, slamming her coffee down on the table with a look of surprise. "I almost forgot – Shika and me and a few others are going to that club tonight . . . you know, that new popular one a few streets away from the university–"
"Red Dawn?" Sakura supplemented.
"Yeah! That's the one!" Ino laughed. "Anyways, I wanted to check it out after hearing Karin talk it up – you know she got that job there as the barista?"
Sakura blinked and raised an eyebrow. "I knew she had the interview; I didn't know she got it, though."
"Well, she did. And she says it lives up to all expectations." Ino grinned up at her. "Come on, Forehead. It would make Karin happy."
Sakura scratched at her wrist and twisted her lips. "Tonight? What time?"
Ino told her, and finally Sakura relented. Kami knew she loved Karin if she was willing to go to a club for her.
The first thing Sakura saw after she took the elevator up to her apartment and unlocked the door was Blue.
Blue, because that was the dog's name – a puppy Golden Retriever, just like Naruto whined about getting – and because the dog was covered in blue paint.
It must be dry, she noted, because as the dog skidded over to her – literally skidded, because of the hard floor and the puppy still getting accommodated to his lanky limbs and too floppy ears – he didn't leave blue footprints or drops on the floor as he went.
Sakura knelt down and rubbed Blue's ears as he furiously sniffed at her, sneezed not-so-daintily at what she could only suppose was Ino's perfume, and made a vaguely whinny noise in the back of his throat.
Naruto had been the one to pick him out when all three of them went to the animal shelter. Sasuke had whispered in her ear at the time that it was because Naruto must have seen a kindred soul in the dog, what with all the drooling and shedding and whinny noises. Sakura had had to smother her laugh as Naruto had turned back to her and Sasuke, made puppy dog eyes at them both and pleaded for them to get the dog, his head temple-to-temple with Blue's, who also – for more obvious reasons – was working his puppy dog eyes.
So they got the dog.
The only concession they had to make was with the name. Because Naruto got to pick out the dog, Sasuke got to name it. And because the Paint War had been going strong, even then, Sasuke named the dog the one thing that would undoubtedly annoy Naruto the most.
And what concession did Sakura get? Well, her concession was that the dog – against all reasons – bonded the most with her, and therefore, she got a new guard dog (an actual guard dog, even; she wasn't talking about Naruto or Sasuke or even Tobi).
There had been more than one occasion when Naruto or Sasuke would call her cellphone when she was out because Blue wouldn't stop whining and howling because he missed her. And despite Naruto's protests and attempts with many, many doggy treats, Blue would only sleep in Sakura's room, curled up at the end of her bed or near the door on the floor.
"Where are they, Blue?" she murmured to the dog. Blue just opened his mouth and let his pink tongue roll out to greet her. He licked her hand.
Sakura made her way over to where Blue had skidded over from, which happened to be the kitchen. She vaguely remembered that they had decided to paint it a light blue (meaning: Sasuke fought for his dark, navy blue and Naruto screamed for his neon orange, and Sakura was ready to put her foot down and just demand pink, even though she didn't actually want pink walls, but knew it would piss them both off, but ended up just slapping her hands over both their mouths and ordering it to be painted a nice, sky blue, because it matched their new dinner plates and glasses) and today was the day they had decided it would be painted.
So, of course, this meant Sakura walked into a room laid with plastic all around the floor, paint tape lining the walls, and multiple cans of blue paint lying all around the room along with different sized brushes and rollers.
And, also, her two moronic best friends.
Completely covered in blue paint.
So much, in fact, that Sakura was sure there was more paint on them both then the actual walls, which weren't even a quarter done yet.
Blue wagged his tail from besides her as she clenched and unclenched her fists at her sides, watching her two best friends scream at each other (well. Naruto screamed. Sasuke seethed) and flick well placed blows of paint onto each other. Sakura felt her eyebrow twitch as she heard phrases along the lines of Baka. If we'd just gone with my color, none of this would be happening and Hn. Dobe and Teme! I told you we should have just gotten the orange plates!
Blue ran right up to them both and flipped onto his back, rubbing all around in the puddles of blue paint that had taken up residence along the plastic lining the floor. Well. She supposed he wasn't dry anymore, then.
And then, just to take the cake, a stray ball of blue paint, tossed by one of the morons – she couldn't tell which – hit the vase standing on the plastic-wrapped counter (why it was still there, she had no idea) and made it go tumbling onto the ground, breaking and covered in paint.
Sakura just sighed. That had been the new vase she'd gotten, too.
Finally, Naruto and Sasuke noticed her presence, and ceased fire. Even Blue stopped wiggling around on the paint-coated floor and stared up at her, pink tongue nowhere in sight, as if to say: And you think I'm the animal in the place.
"This," Sakura started. "This right here is why we can't have nice things."
Both boys looked equally guilty, but then Naruto shot out his long arm and pointed at Sasuke, saying, "It's the teme's fault for picking out such stupid colored plates!" A large drop of paint dripped from his sleeve that was once orange, but now was mixed with blue, making a disgusting color. Even his normally bright blonde hair was covered with the stuff, pressing it down and ridding it of its usual volume. Add that to the new color, and he resembled Sasuke with whiskers.
"Hn." Sasuke glared daggers at Naruto.
"Naruto," Sakura sighed. "It's just the kitchen. And it's not even the color blue Sasuke likes – it's too light.
"And what the hell is this?" Sakura continued, pointing accusingly at Blue, who just looked up at her and wagged his tail giddily, further spreading light blue paint around the plastic floor. "Blue could die if he eats the paint!"
Naruto and Sasuke just looked at Blue as if noticing him for the first time. Blue just looked back at them both and cocked his head, as if to say, Well, this is all your fault. Obviously.
Sometimes Sakura loved the dog more than she loved her two morons.
On cue, Blue jumped up and tackled Naruto, who just screamed and begged Sakura to come save him, but, honestly, Sakura was more concerned about the fact Blue was licking Naruto's face, which was covered in blue paint, and didn't these idiots just hear what she said?
Sasuke just turned to look at her with a bored expression. Honestly, it pissed Sakura off more than her broken vase.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "We're painting the bathroom pink."
Sasuke tensed right up and almost – almost – gaped at her. She held up a hand to stop him. "No. You two have very nearly ruined the kitchen and broke another one of my goddamn vases, so now, I get to pick the color of the bathroom, and I pick pink."
Sasuke just continued to glare at her while Naruto was still on the floor, underneath Blue, who was still mauling – oh, sorry, licking – the boy and possibly poisoning himself. Naruto was making sounds that were both something of a laugh and a choke, and who obviously hadn't heard a word she'd said. Oh, well. He'd find out eventually, when Sakura came home with new cans of paint for the bathroom.
Sakura had made the diplomatic decision that she would buy all the paints (for obvious reasons). They would all decide on the colors together (for the most part . . . maybe) from those little color cards you could find at paint stores, but it was only Sakura who would venture out and actually buy the paints. She didn't trust either Sasuke or Naruto not to just come home with only blue or orange, respectively, and give some BS excuse as to why the store was out of every other color or something along those lines. Really. She wouldn't put it past them at this point.
She didn't even want a pink bathroom. But she did want to piss both Sasuke and Naruto off and punish them for painting the dog blue.
They all could pick the colors for their personal bedrooms, and the colors both Sasuke and Naruto picked were obvious, but Sakura had picked a nice light shade of green for hers. It matched the green bedsheets Ino had picked out for her.
Figuring that Blue had ingested enough paint for one day, Sakura strode over to where the dog and Naruto lay crumpled together and picked Blue up by the scruff of his neck, careful not to hurt him and to not get any wet paint on her. She liked this dress far too much.
Instead, Blue turned to her and licked her cheek in one long stroke, and Sakura could feel the paint smear he left in his wake from his nose. She didn't even bother to attempt to wipe it off, but settled for glaring at both Naruto and Sasuke, dropping Blue and peeling back her lips from her teeth, as if to say, He's your dog – clean him up.
After Sakura forced Naruto and Sasuke to clean up the mess they made and actually paint the kitchen walls with what was left of the paint, Sakura leaned against the doorframe to the kitchen and told them about going to the popular club Ino invited her to that morning.
"We should all go," Sakura continued, inspecting her clean nails and twirling some of her rings. "If for no other reason than to let all this paint dry without us having to smell it."
"What was the club again?" Sasuke asked.
"I think it's called Red Dawn or something."
Sasuke froze, mid-step, hands wiping his painted jeans. Slowly, so slowly, he turned his head to look at her with what she could only compare to as owl's eyes.
Naruto was oblivious. "Sounds good, Sakura-chan! But . . . what about Blue?" He gazed down at the Blue in question, who was currently chewing ferociously on a doggie bone Sakura had picked up for him. "We can't just leave him by himself."
Sakura was still looking at Sasuke. "What?" she asked.
Sasuke just blinked and shook his head. "Nothing," he grumbled. "It just sounded familiar for a second."
All too used to his mood swings, Sakura just shrugged and turned back to Naruto. "Blue will be fine." She scratched the now clean dog behind her ear, to which he began thumping his tail on the ground. "He needs to learn to stay home by himself."
"I'll store away any valuables," Sasuke said, walking away to do just that.
Naruto just looked confused. "What valuables?"
"Everything that's not yours."
It took a moment to register. And then: "Oi, Teme! I do too have valuable things! Have you not seen my ramen-eating-contest trophy!?"
Sakura just continued to pet Blue, who was all too happy to receive the attention.
Because Sakura was not the clubbing type, she did not know what to wear, and because she did not know what to wear, Sakura called Ino, who always knew what to wear.
"You know that cute silver top? The one with the V-neck and quarter sleeves? Put that with those white skinny jeans and the black, strappy kitten heels."
"Uh . . ."
It was somewhat sad that Ino knew her closet better than Sakura knew it.
"Top left, bottom right next to the jean pile. Come on, Forehead. And, oh, wear that silver necklace I got you too . . . you know, the long sparkly chain with the angel pendant?"
"Um . . ."
"Your dresser, top drawer."
She looked. "Oh, that one."
"Yes, that one. Put it on. And, yes, you do have to wear the heels. They're tiny, so not even you should trip in them."
"Oh, shut up, Pig. I haven't tripped in heels since we were fifteen."
But even so, she put on the clothes and heels and necklace, along with her normal rings and hoop earrings, all courtesy of Ino and her insanely good style. Really, if Sakura had known this was the outcome of having her apartment flooding and losing all her clothes, she would have done it years ago.
Moving her cellphone to her other ear and keeping it there with her shoulder, Sakura tried to tug down the shirt. It was cute . . . great, even. It fit Sakura perfectly, and wasn't too tight but just right, but . . . it was short. Not showing her stomach short, but close. If she had to raise her arms, it would be a close call.
A huff on the other end of the phone. "I know that silence – what is it?"
"Um," Sakura said. "Nothing's wrong, exactly, but . . . the shirt is a little small."
"That's the point, Forehead."
"But I mean . . . my stomach might show."
"Oh, dear god," Ino groaned. "There is nothing wrong with flashing a thin, miniscule part of your stomach when you might move a certain way. You are not doing anything inappropriate, and with your stomach, you should want to show it off, goddamn it!"
Sakura just blinked at the phone for a moment. "I'm wearing a tank underneath it."
A very dramatic sigh on the other end of the phone before a hasty, "Whatever, Forehead. I gotta go; I'll see you tonight. Remind those morons to dress nice . . . and by that I mean pick out what Naruto's going to wear," and the line went dead.
Despite what Sakura had said, she didn't wear the tank top underneath the silver shirt. She wasn't sure why she didn't . . . maybe Ino was finally getting to her.
About an hour before they would need to leave, Sakura grabbed Naruto and forcibly pushed him into the bathroom, yelling at him that she wasn't letting him leave the bathroom until he cleaned the paint out of his ears, and that, yes, she would be checking.
"But . . . But SAKURA-CHAANN–"
"NO. Clean yourself, dammit!"
A pitiful whine on the other side of the door. Blue trotted up to Sakura and growled at the door, letting her scratch behind his ears.
"But I can't get all of it out!"
"Should have thought of that before you and Sasuke decided to have a paint war in the kitchen."
A heavy pause. And then Naruto said, in a pleading voice, "Hey, Sakura-chan, do you think you could–?"
"I'm not cleaning out your ears for you, Naruto. NOW CLEAN YOURSELF, DAMMIT."
This took approximately half an hour, in which Sakura did in fact take multiple cotton swabs drenched in alcohol to Naruto's ear. Blue – ever the faithful dog – stood next to Sakura during this whole endeavor – and she did mean the whole endeavor, all the way to the depths of Naruto's inner ear; good gosh, that dog was loyal – and made appropriate growling noises at Naruto every now and then when Sakura got tired of trying to make Naruto squirm with the cotton swabs for making her do this in the first place. She gave Blue an extra treat.
After that was done, Sakura scrounged through Naruto's closet until she found something not wholly made of an orange monstrosity and laid it out for him. Blue continued to trot alongside her during this whole time and even pranced out of Naruto's closet with one of his more hideous orange shirts in his mouth, growling low and tearing at it. Sakura decided he deserved another treat for that.
When she went out to the kitchen to find the glass container they'd gotten just for that purpose, Sakura found Sasuke already holding it, and she froze in the doorway so fast that Blue bumped into her legs. Then Blue – the poor dog – froze right along with her.
There was Sasuke, holding the dog treat jar in the crook of his arm, dressed all in black for the club, casually eating something light brown.
Sasuke just stared.
"Um," she started. She continued to blink, thinking that if she did it enough times this would all be a different picture. Because he couldn't really be . . .
"Uh . . . Sasuke . . ." He looked at her and raised an eyebrow. Then he reached into the jar and took out another round biscuit and popped it into his mouth. And Sakura, for her part, didn't do a damn thing to stop him. Instead, she watched. And stared. "Do you know what you're eating?"
Sasuke blinked at her and looked down. "Cookies. They're not half bad." He held out the jar to her. "Want one?"
"Um . . . no . . .thanks." Took a breath. "Sasuke . . . those are the dog's treats."
Sasuke had had a hand halfway to his mouth, another dog treat in hand, and he froze.
Blue whined loudly.
Sakura walked away before she witnessed Sasuke over the sink, washing out his mouth with soap as Blue jumped on the treat Sasuke had dropped on the floor. She had another moron to deal with . . . one that she hoped didn't have non-human related food in his mouth. Really, though. She only wanted so much in life.
Naruto, for his part, was dressed when she found him, doing up the buttons on the light orange shirt she had picked out for him. At least it wasn't the neon orange he typically wore.
Seeing that her work was mostly done, Sakura went to the bathroom and got to work on her hair. This was why she started on Naruto an hour early, so she could have time after to take care of her hair, which she knew would get messed up from whatever stupidity she'd have to endure to get Naruto and Sasuke dressed appropriately.
It was only to her shoulders, so all she did was straighten it as best she could and use a bit more hairspray then she was used to. There . . . decent.
The car Sakura used as her getaway from the Uchiha mansion was parked downstairs, and Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke all just used that whenever they had somewhere to go together. They all had cars themselves but . . . this one was the favorite. Sakura could honestly say she enjoyed driving it more than she probably should. When Sasuke had noticed her love of the car, he had just smirked and offered to buy her one of her own, to which she smacked him upside the head and told him that was ridiculous. She had even grinned devilishly at him. She would just steal his whenever she wanted to race.
This time, Sakura let Sasuke drive. She kind of hated how he drove – one hand on the consul between the driver's and passenger's seat, the other casually thrown over the top of the steering wheel, his wrist doing everything for him. His legs were too long, too. Nothing like her short little legs that she had to push the seat up just to reach the peddles. Ridiculous.
The club was a few streets over from the main part of campus, not situated in the best part of town but not the worst, either. Even if it had been in the worst part of town it wouldn't surprise Sakura – Ino and Karin wouldn't think twice about walking around the street, half-drunk and wobbling in their six inch heels. Gangbangers on the corners wouldn't have even crossed their radar.
Not that it particularly worried Sakura – Ino and Karin could take care of themselves.
There weren't many – if any – places to park, but eventually and after the fifth time they circled the place, Sasuke got fed up, cursed, and parked in what Sakura thought was an illegal spot between another car and a streetlamp. The fit was just tight enough that Sakura was almost positive it wasn't meant to be an actual spot, but with the amount of menace radiating off Sasuke right then, she wasn't going to question it. Few things could piss the boy off as much as bad drivers and nonexistent parking places (well . . . and eating dog treats/cookies).
Naruto was out the door in seconds, not being one to be able to sit still for long and having been angsty ever since they circles the club looking for a place to park for the second time. Sakura and Sasuke followed behind at a much slower pace, Sasuke with his hands thrown into his pockets and back hunched in the way he did when he expected to be mauled by fangirls and Sakura with her hands twinned around the long strap of her purse, already sighing at how she expected this night to go. (Meaning: Sasuke and Naruto drinking past their limit and Sakura having to stop them from doing a strip tease while Ino and Karin threw small bills at them.)
Naruto paused at the door long enough to hold it open for Sakura before he skipped into the building, which was dark and flashing. Sakura hadn't been to many clubs or bars in her life, so she didn't have much to compare it to, but from what it looked like and the kind of clientele she was seeing, Sakura would bet this was one of the nicer clubs in town. At least, that was what she was figuring from the two large bouncers at the door and the fact everyone in the club looked like they came from money. Not to mention all the furniture was leather and looked freshly bought with the large glass tables and velvet curtains she saw off to the side, for private uses.
Not everyone here was as young as she was, Sakura noted. In one of the larger private rooms in the back that had the red velvet curtain open, Sakura could make out a group of what looked like businessmen holding some kind of meeting, despite the alcoholic drinks on their tables. At least, they looked serious enough and their suits and jackets seemed newly pressed and in order, nothing like a group of work buddies going out for some fun after work that would loosen their collars and undo a button or two. No, these men were there for something else.
Sakura whipped her head around and saw Ino on one of the high bar stools, waving her arms in a way similar to Naruto and Tobi, Shikamaru seated next to her and gazing down at the bar table like he would like nothing more than to lay his head down and sleep . . . or beat his head into it; whichever came first.
Karin was behind the bar, grinning at her with a towel in hand until another patron waved her down and ordered a drink. Ino pouted at that but still jumped up from her seat and practically jumped Sakura, pulling her by the arm over to where Shikamaru was still seated. He gave her a nod in greeting, to which she returned.
Ino started to jabber on about something related to how Karin got this job and how Ino found the club in the first place, and, oh, you gotta try the mango daiquiris, they're just to die for, especially with Karin making them and adding a little something, something in them . . . but Sakura was only half listening. Something felt . . . off about this club. It didn't help that Ino had obviously had a few drinks before Sakura got there and was beginning to slur some of her words.
The obvious colors of choice for the club were red and black – red velvet curtain, red strobe lights, red bar stools; black leather couches, black glitter tables, shiny black tiles . . .
Now that she thought about it, there wasn't really any other color in the place. Even the patrons mostly wore red and black and the occasional silver or gray. It was obvious who the regulars were.
Suddenly, Ino was grabbing her face between her hands and putting something cool against her lips. Sakura made an annoyed sound and fidgeted, but Ino held tight and hissed, "Hold still." So she did.
"There," Ino cooed, obviously satisfied with her work. She held up the gold stick of lipstick she'd just smeared over her lips – it was blood red.
Ino handed her a napkin. "You know what to do."
Sakura rubbed her lips together and then smacked them to the napkin, leaving behind an imprint of her lips.
Ino grinned, all white teeth. Sakura noticed that there was some silver glitter in her lashes. "Much better."
Naruto and Sasuke had made their way over to Sakura by then, and she noticed that the club was more crowded than she first thought. Neither Naruto nor Sasuke could sit down because every bar stool was taken; Sakura wondered what Ino had threatened to keep this stool saved for her for so long.
Naruto's eyes were bouncing around the room while his goofy grin and wandering hands played with a stray napkin he found lying on the counter. But it was Sasuke who drew her attention – his hands were clenched with his arms crossed in front of him. He was leaning against the bar table, his body brushing Sakura's shoulder, a pathetic attempt to look cool and calm when he was anything but – at least in Sakura's eyes.
She tugged on his leather jacket. "Hey." He looked down at her. "What's wrong?"
Sasuke blinked at her and looked around. "Nothing," he murmured, uncrossing his legs and leaning heavier on the counter.
Sakura was about to open her mouth to push the topic, but then she heard the telltale gasp and saw the cluster of women out of the corner of her eye, blushes in full view.
Quickly, Sakura jerked hard on Sasuke's jacket. He turned to her, quick, and glared. She narrowed her eyes at him and pressed her lips together, eyes darting over to the cluster of girls and then back at him. Sasuke looked, a roundhouse gasp ensued, and he quickly turned his face the other way, a scowl on his face.
Sakura tugged on his jacket again and made him look at Naruto, who was still oblivious and eyeing up a pretty looking drink another patron had their hands wrapped around. Sasuke kicked him, and Naruto yelped, looking over to glare at the teme. Sasuke made a similar motion with his eyes that Sakura had, only he had to do it a few more times to get Naruto to understand and then look in the right direction. Naruto pivoted on his heels to look all around the club, his face contorted in confusion, until Sasuke grunted and grabbed the back of his neck, making him look at the gaggle of girls preening and blushing in their direction. A few giggled and gave timid waves. Naruto, ever the idiot, waved back. Sasuke punched him.
"Don't encourage them," Sasuke hissed. There were few things other than eating dog treats/cookies, lack of parking spaces, and fangirls that annoyed him more.
"Ah, don't be like that Sasuke-teme," Naruto yelled over the music, which wasn't that difficult of a feat. "Sakura-chan's here to scare them off, anyways."
She gave him a blank look. "And how am I supposed to do that?"
Naruto gave her a sly grin. "Just mention that you live with both of us."
Sakura scoffed and Sasuke grunted. "Dobe," he said.
Ino laughed loudly from beside her, and it somewhat resembled a cat.
Finally, Karin came back and took their orders. Sakura leaned up again the bar. "Congrats on getting the job, Kar. Do you like it?"
Karin pushed her glasses up her nose and grinned at her. "It's rough, but I like it well enough. Busy, but good. The tips are very, very generous." She looked over at Sasuke and raised her eyebrow, but didn't do anything other than give him a nod. Sasuke ignored her.
Karin's relationship with Sasuke was . . . odd. It was mostly a hate/grudging understanding, but still . . . yeah, mostly hate. Sakura would even go so far as to say Karin had pleasant dreams about castrating the boy.
Hmm . . . maybe that was why she and Karin had bonded so easily; they both favored castration when it came to the moronic men around them.
At one point, Karin could have been called a fangirl of Sasuke's, but then she met him, realized he had the social skills of roadkill, somewhere in there got so fed up with him she kicked him where the sun don't shine (Sakura had no doubt he'd deserved it), and became Sakura's friend when she heard about another woman not taking any of the Uchiha's shit.
It was similar to how Sakura had come to be friends with Ino. But with Ino, she'd been friends with her for years and it was easier, simpler. With Karin, after she kicked Sasuke, Sakura had taken her and introduced her to Ino, who then eyed her up and a (somewhat) bloodthirsty competition ensued that always happened when two alpha women became friends.
Karin was not a nice girl. Neither was Ino. And (depending on who was asked), neither was Sakura. When the time called for it, at least. But out of the three of them, she was the balance.
But a funny thing happens when women become friends – it's a hate/love kind of relationship, at first. You don't trust them on principle, especially with the kind of alpha woman-ness that both Ino and Karin radiated – a result of being sought after and pretty and coming from good families.
But when it does click, when women get past that point and trust each other, it's unequable. It didn't hurt that Sakura wasn't like Ino and gave other possible friends the fifth degree. She was wary for good reasons and guarded. But if Sakura liked someone, Ino liked someone. It was just like that.
There was nothing like the kind of pain a woman can inflict on another woman. It's not like the heartbreak of a first love or the kind of jealousy that comes from lost family, but an all-consuming flame when a friend does something to hurt another friend, because no one ever warns a girl to guard her heart against other girls. No one ever warns a girl to hide the heart on her sleeve from another girl, but the truth was that the kind of all-consuming friendship girls can have can hurt much worse than a broken heart from a boy. Girls were all pretty white teeth and sharply filed nails that work so much better to gouge out hearts.
Now, Ino, Karin, and Sakura got along perfectly. They screwed up, sure, but they never really lied to each other. They never backstabbed each other. There were the times, of course, when they might keep secrets and hurt each other without meaning to, but Sakura really wasn't one to hold grudges, and would roll her eyes and tell them that if they didn't hurt each other every now and again, then they weren't as close to begin with, and so what? Because if they held everything they ever did to each other and marked tallies all the time, they would never actually have time to be friends.
It was a funny thing. Sakura's friendship with Naruto and Sasuke was unequable, but so was her friendship with Ino and Karin. Yet she couldn't really compare them.
Her friendship with Naruto and Sasuke was like something that was always meant to be. Like the moment they met each other it was just going to happen, despite their being idiots and Sakura wanting to strangle them eighty-three percent of the time. But her relationship with Ino and Karin was a bit more difficult than that, and they had to work for it, but it was still as strong.
With girls, it's all glitter-lashes and blood red lips and clasped hands and bathroom breaks and shoulder's to cry on and wearing hearts on cheeks, because sleeves were too messy.
With boys, it's all sarcastic remarks and slaps to the backs of their heads and shoulder's brushing and paint wars and blue dogs and a warm shoulder to cry on, because there was something so comforting about getting wrapped up in arms bigger than yours and forgetting about hearts on cheeks and sleeves.
At least, that was what it was like for her.
Sakura elbowed Sasuke, hard. He had to bite back the yelp. Karin laughed and gave Sakura another grin. "I'm a little surprised you came, actually."
Karin gave her an odd look. "Well, because of who owns the club, of course."
Sakura just smiled and shook her head. "I don't know who owns it. Why would I?"
Karin just grinned wider and cleaned out a glass with a rag. "Never mind, then." And she walked off, laughing under the breath, to refill another man's glass. He gave her a sultry wink when she came over, and if possible, she showed more teeth.
Ino scoffed. "Kar's going to get so many tips from doing that." And she knocked back another shot. Sakura did not bother to ask what "that" was specific to.
Sakura turned to her. "Who owns the bar?"
Ino shrugged. "Hell if I know. And who cares? It's sure nice enough." She waved her hand around at the place.
Sakura nodded, distracted. She was keeping an eye on Sasuke and Naruto, both of which had inched closer to her as the night went on, losing ground to the gathering fangirls.
Suddenly, Sasuke grabbed Sakura by the shoulder and tugged her closer to his chest, dipping his head down to give her a light kiss on the cheek closest to the crowd. A few mutters and disponed sounds where heard, but Sakura was too busy grinding her heel into Sasuke's foot to really notice.
Behind her, Sakura heard a mumbled, "So troublesome."
Sasuke bit his lip to keep back the gasp of pain. Sakura finally let up and growled at him over the rim of her glass, "Get someone else to be your excuse."
"Ah, but Sakura-chan," Naruto yelled, peeking over Sasuke's shoulder, "girls will leave us alone if they think we're taken."
Sakura narrowed her eyes at him. "Then actually get yourself taken." She took another sip, but kept it minimal. She had an inkling that she'd be driving them home tonight.
Naruto stuck his lip out. Sakura slammed her glass down on the table. "No. You already kissed me once, Naruto. Never again."
And Sakura realized she had spoken louder than she needed to. And now fangirls were glaring at her.
Sakura turned her head, raised her eyebrows, and gave them all a what-the-hell-are-you-going-to-do-about-it look. Honestly, though.
Maybe she should stop nursing her drink.
Behind her, Sakura heard a giggle from Ino and a tired, "I could be sleeping right now, woman," that as most likely targeted at Ino.
Sakura's feelings exactly.
She got up and excused herself for the bathroom. Naruto and Sasuke didn't question it. She tried to rope Ino into coming with her, but Ino was already flush over the counter, resting her head in her hands and speaking with Shikamaru in hushed tones, a small smile on her lips.
Sakura half expected to be cornered by some of the fangirls, but she must have been radiating more don't-mess-with-me aura than she thought, because all the fangirls gave her a wide berth. No one touched her.
That was, until Sakura walked by one of the closed velvet curtains for the private rooms and a hand reached out and grabbed her, closing over her mouth and pulling her in before she had a chance to react.
The hand over her mouth stayed there while the other twinned around her waist, keeping her flush against a body. A nose rubbed against her ear, and she felt pointed teeth there.
"Ah, blossom-chan," a light voice said, "if we had known you would be here, we wouldn't have had that midnight snack earlier," a much darker voice finished.
Sakura bit the hand covering her mouth.
A yelp and she was free, her foot coming down to hit the most sensitive part of Zetsu's foot.
She pointed accusingly at him. "What the hell are you doing here?"
He chuckled at her and licked his lips. "Ah, flower-chan, don't you know?" He stood up to his full height, and it was only then that Sakura realized that he was wearing what looked like a business suit. Her head reeled at this, not comprehending.
"The Akatsuki wanted to expand their horizons," Zetsu continued. "And make a little more cash. What better way to do that than through starting a night club and preying on drunken imbeciles."
Sakura cursed. So this was what Karin had meant. The fuckers owned the place . . . and she'd walked right into it, of her own free will.
She was an idiot.
"Of course, being the entrepreneurs they are, those damned Uchiha's wanted in on it too."
A heavy hand landed on her shoulder. Sakura looked up to stare into Zetsu's odd colored eyes. He grinned at her, pointed teeth in full view. "We're sorry we didn't get to visit you much back at those accursed Uchiha's manor, but we had to take care of this business – you understand, flower-chan."
He rubbed his head against her hair. Sakura punched him. He faltered.
All that was running through her head was: Shitshitshitshitfuckshitshithollyhellshitshitfortheloveofgodthiscouldnotbehappeningshitshitthesemotherfuckersshitshitshit–
Time to go.
Sakura turned, expecting to see the velvet red she needed to get through to go grab Naruto and Sasuke and throw them all out of this club, and then never, ever come back, but instead she ran right into a wall . . . a body.
He chuckled and wrapped his arms around her, making an iron cage around her, resting his chin on the top of her head. "So glad you could make it, Sakura-hime. This is a delightful treat, I must say. If I had known opening a night club would get you to come, I would have done it ages ago."
She really was a moron. No wonder she was living with Naruto and Sasuke now.
But what were the effing chances?
Pretty damn good, apparently.
Author's Note: Well . . . that was long. Yeah, so if you just so happened to click on this story, please realize this is the sequel to another story I wrote, Sakura's Moronic Best Friends, in which Sakura is kidnapped by none other than her two morons and taken to the Uchiha mansion, in which insanity and handsy Uchiha's and Akatsuki member's ensue. You can still read this without reading the first part (obviously); however, there will be references that you may not understand. So . . . yeah.
I'm both surprised and grateful for the amount of reviews I received from so many people (you know who you are) who wanted a sequel. So thank you very much for all the kind reviews. Many of you wanted more Sasori and Madara action going on . . . I think I can whip up some of that (oh, my gosh. I just had an idea that involves whip cream . . . never mind, ignore me).
So, yes, I'm so happy to finally involve both Ino and Karin (and even little doe-eyed Shika). And so Karin is a barista (just 'cause), Zetsu had been being a little sneak and working on opening the Akatsuki's new club that Sakura just so happened to stumble into, they got a doggy named Blue (because why the hell not?) who may or may not get in the way of hormonal men in the very near future (go, doggy! Protect innocent little Sakura-chan), and further chaos from the Paint War.
I haven't decided if I want this to remain a Sakuraxharem or for there to be an actual pairing at the end. Hmmm . . . just because I can't really decide who I'd want Sakura to end up with. I don't really have a favorite pairing because I like all of them. Currently, I know which ones I like the best and who may be higher up on my list, but I also really just like the idea of NarutoxSakuraxSasuke . . . not even necessarily in a romantic way, but just as all together, and throwing one of the other men in the mix complicates things. So. I don't know yet. We will see. In the meantime, this is still a Sakuraxharem.
Also, just an FYI - Karin is not an Uzumaki in my world. She is just another girl who is now good friends with Sakura. She comes from a good family, but not the Uzumaki family. Also . . . I may have to involve Kakashi somewhere in here. I have an idea, one that I'm currently laughing about because of all the utter crap I could make Kakashi do in this position I have in mind. Because why the hell not? And it's Kakashi for crying out loud . . . you can't just not have Kakashi. I mean, come on now.
(Also, when I write about Naruto and Blue, I can't help thinking about Ouran High School Host Club and Tamaki and his dog. Plus Naruto fits that kind of personality type, so it works.)