[AN: Hi there! I wrote this piece as a mental break from the comparative seriousness/angst/massiveness of the upcoming chapters of my current main squeeze, "Secrets of the Sharingan" (which, shameless plug, I totally encourage you to check out if you like my style). What follows is pretty much pure, hopefully amusing fluff (with a small side of feelings, because I can't help myself) that I'm planning on leaving as a one-shot (unless further inspiration strikes... you never know!). Please note that the content is most certainly rated M for mature themes, mature activities, and language. As always, comments/favorites/follows are appreciated, and I do not own the characters, as much as I might wish to. Hopefully, you have as much fun reading as I did writing!]
It was times like these that Sakura wondered how she hadn't yet murdered Yamanaka Ino.
The day had started out pleasantly and innocently enough, as most weekend days in Konoha tended to. With a free schedule and only six weeks left until Naruto's and Hinata's wedding, Sakura had jumped at her best friend's suggestion of indulging in a little retail therapy. How she ended up walking home from the afternoon of shopping with a discreet little brown bag containing a vibrator, she wasn't entirely sure. But it was 100% Ino's fault.
If the truth be told, she rather needed a break. Blame it on the fact that her peer group was inching closer to their mid-twenties, the unseasonably early spring (the past week it had hit 75 degrees, and her birthday was still a week away!), or the remarkable span of peace that they'd experienced ever since Uchiha Itachi defied his clan to negotiate the successful end of what could have otherwise been one hell of a coup, but love was very much in the air. For everyone, it seemed, except for a certain pink-haired kunoichi.
Sakura had never exactly been the jealous type. Indeed, when Naruto had confided in her ten months ago that he planned on proposing to the Hyuga heiress and requested her assistance with picking out a ring, she'd been positively ecstatic. And when Hinata had invited her to be a bridesmaid two months later, she'd been over the moon. And she'd joined the rest of the Konoha Twelve - well, Eleven; Sasuke had never been one for parties - in heartily toasting the long-anticipated engagement of Neji and Tenten during the Winter Festival. And she'd enthusiastically hugged the weapons mistress when the dark-haired girl had stumbled up to her in the Twisted Kunai in the wee hours of the morning and drunkenly asked her to be her bridesmaid. And then, just last month, following a Valentine's Day dinner date between Ino and Shikamaru that "wasn't a date, Forehead, I swear; we're just getting together for a team dinner... on Valentine's Day... without Asuma-sensei and Choji," hadn't she happily received the blonde's sappy four AM phone call telling her that yes, they'd totally done it; Shika was basically a sex god (ohmygod, Forehead, I didn't even know it was possible to do that with your tongue!); that he may have popped the question post-coitus before promptly falling asleep (the lazy ass!); and that Sakura had better not plan on signing up for any long-term missions for the foreseeable future because she utterly refused to have anyone else for her Maid of Honor?
Yes, she was an exceedingly good sport, particularly given the sorry state of her own love life. Which was, to be honest, basically nonexistent. Okay, well, she'd had her share of kisses. Six, in total (because yes, she was totally counting). Her first was an exceedingly awkward one with Naruto when she was sixteen "to see what the big deal was about." Then, there were four with Kiba over the two-week period that she'd agreed to date him, the last one including tongue, which was admittedly the moment she'd realized he really wasn't her cup of tea. Then, most recently, there had been a rather uncomfortable exchange at her twenty-fourth birthday party almost a year ago while dancing with some random Sand shinobi whose rushing hands and roaming eyes had suggested that he'd had a whole lot more on his mind than just kissing her that night.
And she'd been tempted. Really, she had. While a stranger, in the semi-darkness of the bar, his dark brown hair and dusky grey eyes almost reminded her of the boy - scratch that, man; they hadn't been children in years - she'd not-to-secretly wished had been the one to give her a birthday kiss. But he hadn't been in Konoha that night. He almost never was these days. Which was frustrating but perfectly understandable given his position. For, unbeknownst to almost everyone except the Yondaime, his current teammates, his immediate family, a few of his clan elders, and Sakura (who needed to know as his personal medic), Uchiha Sasuke had followed his brother in joining the ranks of ANBU two-and-a-half years ago. It was a great honor, and Sakura was thrilled to see her former teammate doing so well for himself and finally, finally earning some of the respect his father and clan elders had never shown him as "the spare," as he rather darkly called himself. She just wished it didn't have to come at the cost of a lifetime of spinsterhood. For, despite what she'd claimed at the age of eighteen when Ino had accused her of "still hankering after him like some sad little kitten," she was still hopelessly, miserably in love with Sasuke, and she'd realized over the past year as her friends had begun pairing off that she didn't really want to be with anyone else. Not Naruto (although, that ship had long sailed given his rapidly approaching nuptials), not Kiba, not the random Sand jonin from last year's birthday party. It had to be Sasuke. Or no one. And right now, it was looking an awful lot like no one might win out.
They met up around eleven outside of the Yamanaka Flower Shop, where her blonde friend had been working for a few hours already. These days, Ino was a jonin in her own right with enough medical training to take on weekly shifts at the hospital and a bloodline limit that had recently led to her appointment as an apprentice in Torture and Interrogation (not that the Department saw all that much action in times of peace). That being said, she still held her childhood fondness for flowers and often joined her mother in the shop on weekend hours, assembling bouquets, meeting with clients, and manning the register. For the past few weeks, she'd been logging even more time than usual, working closely with the Hyuuga on Hinata's upcoming wedding decor. Between the clan wealth and Ino's eye for the exotic, it promised to be quite the display of flora.
Ino gave Sakura a cheery wave as she exited through the front door, the little shop bell tinkling merrily. As she approached, her eyes narrowed critically, and Sakura could sense the insult coming. For, while they were best friends, they were also "Eternal Rivals" (to quote a certain jonin sensei with a passion for green spandex), and they could never let their relationship get too syrupy sweet. "Forehead! You're a sight for sore eyes. Don't tell me that that dress you've gone on is the same one you always wore during our genin days." She wrinkled her nose in teasing disgust. "I can't believe it still fits, you lucky bitch. It's a good thing I'm taking you shopping. Your civilian wardrobe could really use a makeover."
Sakura shrugged dismissively. "Good to see you too, Pig. Did you expect me to dress up for you? I figured that I'd passed that torch onto Shika, but I suppose he's probably too lazy."
Ino's eyes flashed in a rather unsettling way. Uh oh. Sakura knew that look well, and she didn't like it one bit. It had cropped up for the first time on the Yamanaka's face soon after she became sexually active at the age of fifteen - Ino had always been rather precocious - and told Sakura that she'd inadvertently said something… sexual. For her best friend knew far too well that Sakura was an almost-twenty-five-year-old virgin and took a perverse amount of pleasure in lording her comparative oceans of experience over her. "Oh, Forehead, you've got no idea how into dress-up Shika-kun can be," she murmured underneath her breath, a rather predatory grin twisting over her face. "Although, usually he's not the one doing the dressing..."
At that, Sakura's cheeks flushed, and Ino laughed rather bawdily. "You asked for it!" Then, seeming to remember that she was standing in front of her family's flower shop and that her mother was right on the other side of the glass, likely watching them, she took hold of Sakura's left arm and urged her off down the bustling street in the direction of the shopping district. "Come on, Sak, we've got no time to waste! There are dresses to be bought, shoes to try on, cosmetics to sample, shop boys to charm! And, besides," she gave Sakura another one of those "more-experienced-than-you" smiles, "Your birthday is next week, and I want you to help me pick out your present."
Well, it couldn't be worse than that lacy black lingerie Ino had gifted her last year, complete with a saucy little note... "Just in case, Forehead! I bet Sasuke-kun loves his women in black. That is, if he ever pulls his head out of his fine Uchiha ass. XOXO Ino" Utterly unprepared for a gift of that magnitude, Sakura had made the mistake of opening the package with her parents present. Almost a year later, she still wasn't sure she was over the embarrassment.
As they wandered through the open air mall, peering into this and that shop, Sakura felt some of the tension of the past few weeks roll off her shoulders. There was, after all, a reason they called it retail therapy.
Ino's surprise engagement had given her a lot to think about. With her best friend officially off the market, Sakura now bore the somewhat dubious distinction of being the only female member of the Konoha 12 uncommitted, and it was a bit of a bitter pill to swallow given her pathetic circumstances. After the moment with the Sand shinobi almost a year ago, she'd resigned herself to complete celibacy, telling herself it was better to be alone than kissing (or worse, sleeping) with some random guy. While she didn't subscribe to the mystique of saving herself for that one, perfect person, she did want her first time - all of her times, really - to be with someone meaningful, someone she could honestly say she cared about and who hopefully cared about her, too. And right now, there was only one man she felt for in that way, one hopelessly attainable, rather aloof man who fortunately no longer viewed her as a complete annoyance (how could he when she'd been patching him up for over a decade, now?) but who'd also never given her any real sign of ever returning her interest.
"You doing okay, Forehead? You're awfully quiet today," Ino commented as they passed by a shoe store with a large display featuring sandals, flip flops, and espadrilles.
"Mhm. Just thinking. Do you have your shoes for Hinata's wedding already? Crazy that they're already selling summer shoes in March, neh?"
Ino ignored her sad attempt at changing the subject. "What're you thinking about, Sakura?" She lowered her voice slightly, ice-blue eyes expressing vague concern. "It's Sasuke, isn't it?"
Sakura didn't want to admit to it, but all the talk of matchmaking and weddings over the past few months had worn her down, and she felt a sudden, overwhelming urge to confide in someone. "Hai. It's him. Again."
"Again," Ino repeated with a quality eye roll. "Gods, Forehead, I wish you'd wake up and smell the pheromones. I mean, I know he's hot and that you've shared a strange sexual tension for, like, a decade, but there are so many other guys out there besides Sasuke. And I'm not just talking about weirdos like Lee." She was really hitting her stride now, and Sakura noticed a bit of her authoritative "medic" tone creeping into her voice. "You've got a decade of pent up desire, Sakura. You really need to get it all out one of these days. Besides," she winked, "It's way more fun that you'd think. Well, maybe not the first time, but -"
Ugh, this same old argument. "Ino, please. We've been over this. I'm just not interested in anyone else right now. I'm fine where I am -"
"Do you touch yourself?"
Sakura stopped in the middle of the street, cheeks growing bright pink in embarrassment. Ino did not just ask her that. In public. In the middle of the damn Konoha shopping district. On a busy Saturday. "Wha-a-at?"
"Oh, don't be thick. Do. You. Touch -"
She did ask! "Shhh!" Sakura implored, looking around to see if there were any familiar faces, curious children, or even random eavesdroppers about. Knowing her luck, someone like Kakashi or Shisui would pick that moment to shunshin in… but she was safe. The streets were bustling, but it appeared that no one was interested in the conversation of two twenty-something jonin kunoichi.
Ino cocked an eyebrow at her glowing face. "You're the one making a scene, you know. You look like a tomato." She smirked, and Sakura felt her face growing redder still. "Although, come to think of it, that might not be such a bad look for you. Isn't that Sasuke's favorite -"
"Fine, fine. You're clearly not going to talk to me out here." At that, the blonde took her by her left arm, pulling her towards three stairs that led to a basement-level shop with a faded red awning. "Let's duck inside. It looks quiet, and we'll be away from any prying eyes."
Sakura allowed herself to be hauled through the black door into a dim room, a little bell tinkling as the door shut behind her. As her eyes adjusted from the bright daylight of the street and she took in the array of merchandise, the kunoichi's jaw dropped, the blush that had faded from her cheeks roaring back anew. Lace and leather outfits; massage oils; toys of every size, color, and type; and a healthy selection of printed literature and videos surrounded them, neatly organized on shelves around the walls. "This is… a sex shop," she hissed at her best friend, tugging her arm backward in a futile attempt to get her to leave. Sakura had never set foot inside one of these places before and had certainly not planned to with Yamanaka Ino.
Ino, however, remained completely calm. Giving Sakura's hand a sympathetic little pat, she smiled back knowingly. "Of course it is. I intended to bring you in here. For your birthday this year, I thought we could find a solution to your little Sasuke problem, and this is the perfect place. I shop here all the time. The owner's super sweet, the prices are the best in Konoha, and they're a sex-positive, kunoichi-centric, judgment-free zone. Now, tell me, Sakura, do you masturbate?"
Sakura glanced around the store, her anxiety growing as her eyes settled on a series of brightly colored, cylindrical objects that were well, freakishly large. While she'd never seen a fully aroused penis before, she'd seen more than her fair share of flaccid to semi-rigid men in her work as a medic (because, as she'd learned from Tsunade, "erections can happen to the best of us at the most inconvenient times") and knew from those experiences that some of these dimensions were positively absurd. There's no way that blue one on the left would ever fit… although I suppose you could try, Sakura found herself musing, only to realize seconds later what exactly she was contemplating and completely losing her cool. No. Absolutely not.
Ino chuckled, bringing Sakura back to reality. "I was thinking we'd start a bit smaller, actually, Forehead," she murmured conspiratorially, evidently noticing exactly which toy had attracted her friend's attention. "Good thinking, though. I don't know anyone who's actually seen it, but given the size of his ego and if he's anything like his cousin Ebisu, I can't imagine that Sasuke-kun's not packing serious goods. And it certainly doesn't hurt to be prepared for whatever the future may bring. But, quit stalling; this is important. Do you touch yourself?"
"I… yes," Sakura whispered back, dropping her eyes to the floor in utter shame (never mind the mind-numbing thought of Sasuke's nethers). There was absolutely nothing wrong with masturbating - it was perfectly natural and healthy - but admitting to doing it to someone, even if it was only Ino, in a place where they could be overheard (the shop seemed empty, but there had to be shopkeeper somewhere) was not something she'd been prepared to do when she'd woken up that morning.
"Awesome." Out of her periphery, Sakura caught a bright smile on Ino's face. It seemed genuine, and the knowledge that her friend seemed to be done with teasing her lifted her confidence a bit. Ino moved towards a display to the left of the fake penises. Dildos, they're called dildos, the pink-haired kunoichi remembered with a little blush as she allowed herself to be pulled after her friend. "So, I'm obviously open to any ideas or preferences you have, as long as you stay within my budget, but I was thinking of getting you a bullet vibrator." Ino pointed to the second shelf, and Sakura eyed the pictures on the boxes with wary interest. "They're pretty discreet, reliable, and so, so awesome. It's like a little oval massager for your clit."
"What? Don't be a prude, Sakura. That's what you do when you touch yourself, you know. I shouldn't have to explain that to Konoha's #2 ranked medic. Anyway, I've got this one, and I love it." She pulled a rectilinear box off the shelf, handing it to Sakura, and the kunoichi tried to force herself to read the rather comprehensive explanation on the back of the package without blushing too fervently. "As you can see, you can also get several other attachments to go with it - including one you can use with your partner - but we don't have to go into that right now." Ino paused, and Sakura looked up to find that her friend's blue eyes were watching her carefully. "If this doesn't do it for you, we can ask for help, too. Like I mentioned earlier, Sato-san is absolutely lovely and super knowledgeable; I think she's in the back right now, but I'm totally happy to go get her so that you know all your options..."
Oh great, just what she needed. Talking about sex toys and her self-pleasuring habits with a total stranger. "No! Uh, I mean, no. It's fine, Ino. I'll go with your recommendation. Thank you," Sakura managed to sputter out, covering the image on the box with her hand in a sudden fear that someone would see her holding it. If anyone found out about this purchase, she'd die.
"Sounds good!" Ino said cheerily, proudly taking the box out of her possession and making her way over to the checkout counter. "I'll expect a full report after your first session. Now, anything else while we're in here?" Sakura felt her eyes widen, and Ino chuckled. "Oh my god, your face. I'm obviously kidding. But seriously, you need to relax about this whole escapade. You're almost twenty-five, Forehead! I know you've never done it, but it's totally healthy to be in touch with your sexual side, you know."
Sakura nodded mutely and waited quietly by Ino's side as she made small chat with the shopkeeper, silently cursing the blonde idiot for loudly introduced her as "Haruno Sakura, the legendary Slug Princess's protege!" Did everyone need to know who she was? Once Ino paid, she made a beeline for the door, her friend following smugly behind her. "Oy, Forehead. This is yours, you know. It might be a present, but you can at least carry the bag." With a sigh, Sakura took the parcel, extremely grateful that there were no telling labels or tags, and they headed out into the street.
They shopped for a few more hours, with Ino picking up a dress, a pair of shoes, and an off-the-shoulder top that Sakura found a bit risque but her friend just adored. Meanwhile, Sakura did rather well for herself, as well. The blonde's comment about the age of her favorite dress still running through her head from that morning, she ended up purchasing several new dresses for the coming spring, including a rather flirty black number for going out that Ino insisted she just had to wear to her birthday party next week. "Now that Hinata, Tenten, and I are all old, affianced ladies, we'll have to live vicariously through you, Forehead!" She told Sakura cheerily, absentmindedly twisting the diamond engagement ring resting on her left ring finger as they stood in the department store checkout line. "In that, the boys won't be able to keep their hands off of you." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "Not even a certain Uchiha. Well, if he ever bothers to stay in the village for more than an hour. And unless he's into guys." Her eyes went wide. "Hey, Sakura, he's not into guys, is he? I mean, I could care less which way he swings, but that would explain so fucking much."
Sakura rolled her eyes. "He's on a mission right now; I doubt he'll be back for my birthday. And, no, he's not," she hissed back, intimately aware that the civilian woman in line behind Ino was eyeing her beadily. "At least, as far as I know. I mean, we never really talked about that sort of thing back when we were teammates."
"But you'd know now, right? I mean, since you're his assigned medic."
"Hmm…" This conversation was heading into dangerous territory; Ino knew better than to talk about patient information, particularly in such a public setting. Moreover, while Sasuke wasn't the Uchiha heir, he was part of the main family, and this gave him a certain amount of notoriety throughout the village. Throw in the facts that he was exceedingly easy on the eyes and one of Konoha's most eligible bachelors, and Sakura wouldn't be surprised to find out that more than one or two of her fellow shoppers would be interested in hearing such fascinating details about his personal life. The redhead behind Ino certainly was, at any rate.
Fortunately, at that moment, Sakura made it to the head of the line, giving her the opportunity to strike up an extremely animated conversation with the salesperson about the unseasonably warm weather they'd been having and escape her best friend's interrogation. Ugh, it had been such a mistake fessing up to Ino about Sasuke. Now, the girl was never going to leave her alone.
After an early tempura dinner, Sakura headed home to her one-bedroom apartment, a ten-minute walk from the shopping district, laden down with bags, the smallest of which felt like the largest burden. Her best friend had always been full of surprises, but she'd really outdone herself today. Sakura wasn't really sure what to think at this point... but she was, admittedly, rather curious. Never in her life had she ever envisioned owning a sex toy, much less using one, but she could see the appeal as she mulled it over. Besides, if Ino said it was good, it probably was, right? After all, her friend had always been her source for sex-related knowledge, and, to date, she'd never let her down.
Letting herself into her apartment, Sakura crossed through her living room, turned on the overhead lights, and went into her bedroom, setting the shopping bags on her queen bed. She switched on the lamp on her bedside table and then proceeded to hang her new dresses in her closet, smiling to herself as her hands ran over the black fabric of her upcoming birthday party dress. Now, if only she knew that Sasuke would be there. She'd learned after several years of disappointments not to get her heart set on the Uchiha being around. In addition to his natural proclivity to avoid anything that required socializing, Sasuke's workload had kept him out of Konoha far more than he was in it pretty much from the moment he'd become a jonin, and his additional ANBU responsibilities over the past couple of years had only served to further expand his time away. Still, a girl could dream…
Turning back to the bed, Sakura's eyes went to the remaining package, the inconspicuous little brown bag from Ino. Settling onto her forest green bedspread, she somewhat nervously reached in and pulled out the box containing the vibrator. Curious to see what she was in for, Sakura opened up the package and pulled out a small manual and the toy itself, hands running over the smooth, bright-pink silicone oval. As Ino had promised, it was surprisingly small and subtle in appearance. She pressed the little button near the base, and the vibrator sprung to life in her hands with a little hum. The sensation was surprisingly powerful, and that appeared to just be the first setting. How… interesting. Sakura squeezed together her thighs as the familiar tingle of arousal rose up inside her core and switched it off, setting it down on her bedside table for later. Yes, it appeared that she might have been very wrong indeed to doubt Ino. But to know for sure, she'd have to give it a little test run. Very soon.
But first, she'd treat herself to a glass of wine (or three, she was Tsunade's student, after all), a bubble bath, and some soft jazz. The past few months had been a particularly busy time at the hospital, and she could use some serious relaxation. Besides, given that she was apparently well on her way to a life of perpetual singledom, she might as well get used to romancing herself.
Stripping off her red dress, bra, and panties, Sakura wrapped her cream-colored terry robe around her body, stopped by the bathroom to turn on the tub, and then headed to the kitchen for a bottle of Pinot Noir and a wine glass. Grabbing the novel she'd been reading off of the coffee table - some pulpy romance between a self-made kunoichi and a hunky shinobi off on a multi-month two-man mission that Ino had recommended - she returned to the bathroom; set the bottle, glass, and book next to the tub; got the jazz cranking; and poured a generous amount of her favorite lavender bubble bath into the tub, sighing happily as the lightly floral scent filled the air. With the tub nice and full, she turned off the spout, stripped off her robe, poured herself a glass of the wine, and slid into the steamy water, savoring the absolutely exquisite sensation of the heat enveloping her slender body. Ahhh, yes. She might not have a husband, a fiance, a boyfriend, or even a halfway attainable crush, but this… this was the life.
Three-and-a-half generous glasses into her wine, Sakura was startled out of the happy lull into which she'd fallen by the distinct sound of footsteps in her living room. Shit! As a medic-nin, Sakura wasn't unused to surprise nocturnal visitors - some of her more elite jonin patients preferred not to check themselves into the hospital if they could help it - but she really hadn't expected anyone tonight. Four of the leading offenders, Kakashi, Naruto, Kiba, and Shisui, were currently in town, and the two who were away, Sasuke and Itachi, weren't due back from their respective missions for another week or two at the earliest. So, either someone had somehow come back extremely early (the Uchiha brothers were both dreadful overachievers, after all), someone had gotten into one hell of a bar fight (bets were on Naruto, with Kiba and Shisui as outside contenders), or it was someone outside the usual cast of characters. Which was a somewhat concerning concept. As a kunoichi, she was fully capable of dealing with the vast majority of threats. She just wasn't accustomed to doing so straight out of the tub, in a bathrobe, with most of a bottle of wine in her system.
But desperate times called for desperate measures. Draining her glass (no use letting good wine go to waste), Sakura set down her book and rose out of the tub, shivering slightly as the cool air kissed her too-warm skin. Drying herself off and wringing the excess water out of her hair, Sakura tightly wrapped her robe around her figure, giving herself a small smile of satisfaction in the mirror. With her face flushed from a combination of the heat and the alcohol and her hair damp from her bath, she looked rather ravishing. If she didn't say so herself. Hm… that was probably the wine talking. But enough ogling her reflection; she had ass to kick… or heal, depending on the intruder's identity.
Stepping into the hall, Sakura glanced left, then right, establishing that her visitor was in her living room. Stumbling slightly - stupid carpet getting underfoot again - she entered the room, a vague sense of irritation prickling up her spine. Would she ever be allowed to have a quiet night in? Stupid little Sakura. She really should have turned Sasuke away that first time he'd decided to try her window instead of checking himself into Konoha General, back when he'd been nursing a broken wrist five years ago. But nooo, he'd "needed" her that night, and she'd stupidly consented, thrilled at the prospect of a late-night rendezvous with the boy she'd been dreaming about for basically forever. Of course, it had only turned out to be for medical purposes, and he'd been on his merry fucking way back to the Uchiha district in short order. And, now, thanks to that one moment of weakness, she was at the beck and call of a veritable rolodex of elite jonin.
As she took in the scene before her, her irritation shifted from pleasure to concern to rage in a matter of seconds. It was Sasuke… but he was injured… rather badly it appeared. And bleeding on the lovely dove-grey sofa she'd purchased with last year's hospital bonus! Fuck! She knew that black would have been a more practical choice. Why oh why had she listened to Ino? Rushing over to his side, Sakura knelt on the wooden floor, reminding herself that she could yell at him about the mess later, once he wasn't quite so close to passing out. "Sasuke-kun, what happened?" She breathed, accidentally throwing in the honorific she'd tried to school out of her vocabulary over the past few years.
"Tch. Mission," he replied shortly, shifting uncomfortably on the couch. That meant it was an ANBU assignment. Even though she was his medic, he still wasn't supposed to tell her anything that she didn't absolutely need to know for healthcare purposes. "Sorry... about the blood."
"It's fine. It doesn't matter," she lied, too mollified by his apology to give him the chewing out he deserved. Sakura's eyes narrowed as she carefully scanned his body, plotting out her plan of attack. It appeared that he had some sort of stab wound on his left bicep, which was where most of the blood was coming from. Moreover, while he'd never exactly been a wordsmith, the vaguely slurred speech and the dazed way he was looking at her suggested that he had a concussion. And he was holding his right ankle at a rather funny angle. Well, all this was nothing she couldn't fix, but protocol dictated that he'd need a good week or two off before going on any further missions and that he'd be staying the night. As a teen, the idea of staying in an apartment, overnight, alone with Uchiha Sasuke would have utterly thrilled her. Now, well, a part of her still didn't mind the intrusion, but the other half was rather mourning the loss of the quiet night in.
Hands glowing green, Sakura addressed the sword wound first. Given the length and depth of the slash, it appeared that he'd been attacked with a katana. Whoever it was must have been a talented swordsman. After all, Sakura knew from over a decade of sparring together that her former teammate was scary fast. She closed up the laceration carefully to avoid any scarring and then turned her attention to his head. This could get tricky. Sasuke hated physical contact, and healing brain trauma was best managed through direct touch. "You have a concussion, Sasuke," she murmured softly, hoping she sounded somewhat professional despite the late hour and her tipsy state. "In order to help with the healing, I'm going to need to place my fingers on your temples, okay?"
The dark-haired man nodded silently and then winced, the subtle motion evidently exacerbating his headache. Leaning over, Sakura brought her fingertips to either side of his head, her heartbeat quickening slightly at the sudden sense of intimacy that washed over her. Sasuke had shut his eyes - whether to drown out the pain or the unwanted closeness, she wasn't sure - and she took the opportunity to scan his handsome face, admiring his long lashes, perfectly straight nose, soft-appearing lips, and well-defined jawline. Reminding herself that she was supposed to be in medic mode, she allowed her chakra to begin to flow into him, stomach thrilling at the gentle sigh he released as his pain eased. Mm… she could just imagine him making that noise in a very different, much more intimate situation…
As she removed her fingers from his temples, satisfied with the results for the time being, Sasuke's eyes flicked open, and she found herself drowning in the intense ebony of his gaze. "You've been drinking. Alone."
It wasn't a question, and the coolness of his tone snapped her out of her reverie. "Yeah, so?" She asked rather combatively. Who was he to question her life choices. "It's a Saturday night, and I had off work today. Besides, it's not like you've never indulged."
He broke eye contact, looking back towards the sofa, and she turned her attention to his ankle. Very fortunately for him, it appeared to be sprained, not broken, but she patched him up anyway. Then, with her work done for the time being, Sakura turned her attention to the final issue, steeling herself for a potentially heated conversation."Sasuke… given your head, you'll need to stay here tonight, you know. It's Konoha Medical's concussion protocol."
"Fine." He turned his gaze back to hers, expression rather long suffering, and Sakura fought hard to keep the shock off of her face. He'd always insisted on going back to his parents' house in the past. I guess he must still feel pretty lousy, then.
One last hurdle. "Here, get up. I'll take the couch. Given your concussion, it's imperative that you get a good night of sleep." She stood quickly and started straightening the already neat books on her coffee table, seeking to hide the blush that she knew had blossomed across her face. The idea of Sasuke staying in her bedroom, sleeping in her bed was exceedingly hard not to get a bit worked up about.
"Sasuke, yes. If you don't get in there, then we'll both be sleeping on the couch, and Kami knows you don't want that."
Oh gods, that was the wine talking. As soon as she said it, Sakura realized that she'd made a massive tactical error, and she felt the blush that she'd managed to suppress just a few seconds ago rise back up anew. For years, she'd done everything she could to keep Sasuke unaware of her persistent crush, treating him like just any other friend or teammate, maintaining the perfect veneer of medic during all of his check-ups and treatments, avoiding any subjects of conversation that could be in any way construed as her coming onto him. And just with that one, stupid slip-up, she'd ruined it, ruined everything. How could she be so stupid?
Glancing up in utter embarrassment, Sakura was flabbergasted to discover that Sasuke was looking at her and… smirking. Damn the handsome bastard; he liked to see her squirm! She waited, breath bated, as he slowly brought himself to a seated position and then rose to his feet, making her feel exceedingly short and small. "Sakura -"
She knew what was coming. He was going to say those words. Those hateful, hateful words that had plagued her childhood. That she was - complete with a dramatic, fully disgusted pause - annoying. "Sasuke?" Don't cry, don't cry. Don't fucking cry. You're a kunoichi, a jonin, the legendary Senju Tsunade's apprentice, the second-best medic in Konoha. You do not cry.
"Arigato." With that, Sasuke turned and made his way down the hall, slightly favoring his uninjured leg.
Sakura watched his retreating figure with a literally open mouth. Over the past few years, she'd thought that she'd come to understand Sasuke in all of his little idiosyncrasies and complexities, but for what had to be the thousandth time, he'd surprised her, forcing her to once again reconsider the very nature of their relationship. She'd always thought that her feelings for him were utterly hopeless and one-sided, but that exchange - the bemusement when she'd expected anger; the fact that he, the most stubborn man she knew, listened; the way that he actually thanked her despite his insufferable Uchiha genetics - well, it gave her hope. Or he'd been hit in the head way harder than she thought...
Turning her attention to the sofa, Sakura eyed the bloodstains rather sadly. Her mother would tell her to start scrubbing immediately if she ever wanted a prayer of getting the blood out, but given that she'd be sleeping there, she supposed she'd have to wait until tomorrow. She could use some blankets, though, and a proper pillow. Tracing Sasuke's path down the hall, she paused at the door frame of her still-open bedroom door, resisting the urge to peek around the corner. Even if he had taken her accidentally suggestive comment in stride, it would still be an exceeding invasion of his privacy to poke her head into the bedroom without knocking. For all she knew, he could be naked.
Banishing that impolitic thought from her dirty mind, Sakura knocked a bit tentatively on the wall. "Sasuke? Mind if I come in? My spare blankets are in the closet, and I'd like to grab them."
That was a "yes" in Uchiha-speak. Sakura bustled into the room, shooting a furtive glance at her companion. He was sitting on her bedspread, shirt off, next to her bedside table and appeared to be rather preoccupied with something or other. Not wanting to get caught staring at his far too lovely to be legal shoulders and torso, she quickly averted her eyes and crossed to the closet, standing on her tiptoes to reach the spare blanket and pillow that she kept at the top. Just as she managed to pull down the sunshine-yellow sheet, however, an odd whirring sound clicked on from the general direction in which Sasuke was located. What the… OH GOD. She knew what that sound was. No no no no. As if this night couldn't get any more awkward…
Sasuke spoke, his voice slightly strained as it cut through the suffocating tension of the bedroom. "Sakura. What is this?"
The pink-haired woman whirled around, blanket and pillow clutched in her arms and brow furrowed in a mixture of utter shame and fear, a tiny part of her holding out hope that she was wrong, that he hadn't found it.
But, of course, he had. Those stupid Sharingan eyes missed nothing, not even when they were inactive. Her little, hot-pink vibrator sat in the middle of his left palm, whirling along happily, and he was eyeing it rather fixedly, left eyebrow cocked in an expression of overt curiosity. If it had been almost anyone else, she would have laughed at the absurdity of the situation. But this was Sasuke, and his opinion mattered. A lot. "It's… it's a… it's a massager," she managed to eke out, successfully quenching the wave of nervous nausea that had risen alongside her embarrassment. "Yes, a massager. It's really good on your, uh, pressure points. Like your forehead and your neck. Oh, and your chakra points too. It's supposed to stimulate them." Fortunately, it seemed that the dulling effects of the wine were starting to fade away; she could hug herself for the brilliance of that fake explanation.
"Hn." Sasuke looked up, the vibrator still doing its thing on his palm. Gods, could those dark eyes see through her lie? They were so intense, and he didn't even have his Sharingan activated. It felt like they could burn through anything. "Interesting. Show me."
Ino was going to die laughing if she ever get enough of a nerve up to tell her about this. Suppressing the nervous giggles that had risen up into her own throat, Sakura nodded and attempted to channel her medic persona once again. If she was going to get away with this lie, she needed to really sell it. "Uh, sure, Sasuke." Setting the spare blanket and pillow on the foot of her bed, she sat down next to him, far enough so that they weren't touching, and he wordlessly passed her the vibrator, his expression impassive.
Suppressing a shudder at the combined sensation of his cool fingertips and the vibrations against her palm, Sakura gave him a smile. "It's really useful for relieving tension. I had a bit of a headache earlier, for example, so I used it on my forehead. Like this." Slowly, she ran the pink silicone across her too-wide forehead, steeling herself under the Uchiha's steady gaze. She didn't exactly want to bring attention to her forehead - while she'd mostly made peace with its size, she wasn't proud of it - but it seemed the safest bet. After all, under Sasuke's watch, she wasn't sure she'd be able to deal with the feeling of the whirling against her wrist, never mind against the back of her neck or in any more intimate spots.
She shut her eyes momentarily in mock pleasure and then opened them again, extremely eager to see Sasuke's response. He was still watching her closely, and his eyes had a certain, heated quality to them that was doing funny things to her insides. "Sakura..." he murmured softly, his voice slightly lower and rougher than usual.
"You're... using it wrong."
Sakura felt her heart beat slightly faster in her chest at that. "What do you mean, Sasuke-kun?" She asked softly, bringing the silicone oval away from her forehead. She could feel her eyes growing wide under his gaze. Surely, he couldn't mean…
"You're using it wrong," he repeated more forcefully, the ghost of a smirk beginning to creep up his lips. "I'm not an idiot, Sa-kur-a." He paused, and his smirk broadened into a rather hungry smile, lighting up his dark eyes. "It's a vibrator. You're supposed to use it… on your clit."
Well, those were words she'd never expected to hear Uchiha Sasuke utter. At his pronouncement, Sakura let out a little gasp, her lips falling open in surprise and a familiar heat beginning to gather in her core. So, if he knew it was a vibrator in the first place, why did he want to see how she used it? Either it was all a massive joke… or he actually wanted to see her get off. Given their history, she'd say it had to be the former, but he'd never exactly been Konoha's #1 jokester. Swallowing hard, Sakura squeezed her thighs together, feeling uncomfortably warm. There was nothing for it… but to ask. "Sasuke-kun, if you knew what it was... why did you want me to demonstrate? Is this a joke?"
His hot hand drifted under the edge of her robe, fingers beginning to trace little circles just above her right knee, and she stifled a moan at the sensation. "Tch. You know I have no time for jokes, Sakura," he murmured, the silky smooth tone of his voice beyond deadly in its intensity. "I was hoping… you'd let me see exactly how you use it. On yourself." He swallowed hard as his fingers worked their way further up her leg, now entering what was distinctly mid-thigh territory.
And just like that, she understood exactly how Hinata used to feel every time she passed out around Naruto back when they were genin. The heat of his gaze and the electricity of his touch were almost too much for her to bear. As his hands moved higher up her thigh, growing perilously close to her crotch, everything suddenly snapped into place. He desired her. And she craved him. "Okay," she replied, pleased that her voice didn't crack under the pressure of her lust.
"I'll show you. I'll let you watch me."
With that, he withdrew his hand from her thigh - much to her frustration; he'd gotten so close to touching her - and pulled her towards him, capturing her lips in a searing kiss before she had any time to process what he was doing. For a moment, she sat, frozen and unmoving. Then, her brain caught up with his actions, and she melted. His lips were so delightfully soft, warm, and firm against her own, the touch unhurried yet insistent, wordlessly communicating the depth of his desire. As his tongue slipped teasingly across her bottom lip, Sakura's breath hitched in her throat, and she let out a little moan that he answered with a teasing nibble. Ungh, he was good at this. Which meant that he was either a prodigy in the bedroom - which wouldn't exactly be a surprise given how good at everything else he tended to be - or he was far more experienced than she. But that was a conversation for another day…
His tongue slid past her parted lips, swirling with hers, and she felt his hands run up her robe-covered body, settling themselves casually on the knot at her waist. "Sakura…" he murmured reverently, his dexterous fingers slowly beginning to play with the sash, "May I…?"
"Mhmm…" she murmured, momentarily losing herself to the full and total awareness of him. He undid the knot, and she shrugged off the terry cloth fabric, baring herself from her shoulders to her navel, the fabric of the robe pooling around her slender waist. As the cool air of the bedroom hit her nipples, turning them to peaks, and Sasuke drew back, eager eyes running down her torso, she felt herself tense. She'd never been naked with a man before, and a sudden, overwhelming uncertainty flooded her soul, warming her cheeks to a rosy flush. Oh Gods, what was she doing? While she'd long ago made peace with her forehead, her chest was still a bit of a sore spot. It was hard not to feel inadequate with Ino and Hinata around, after all, not to mention Tsunade herself. What if he found her... lacking? It was increasingly clear that he'd been with other women before. Surely, her little B-cup wouldn't measure up?
Her arms untwined themselves from Sasuke's broad shoulders - when had that even happened? - ready to hide herself from view, but he was too quick for her. Moving in closer than before, his lips traced a heated path across her left collarbone and down the top of her left breast before latching softly onto her nipple, tongue twirling the nub in a clockwise motion. At that, all thought of covering up vanished from Sakura's mind, and she let out what could only be called a needy groan. The sensation of his tongue, doing that, to her… it was too good. She bit her bottom lip in an effort to quench any further, unflattering noises, and Sasuke let out a chuckle, his breath hot against her bare skin as he raised his smoldering gaze to hers. "So sensitive..."
His left hand traced its way up her back, causing her skin to prickle with pleasurable goosebumps, and then made its way along her left jaw. Tracing her lower lip, he slowly inserted his index finger past her bottom teeth, and she bit down lightly in a sudden bit of improvisation. It appeared she was onto something, for Sasuke's breath hitched in his throat in response. Below her, his eyes seemed even darker than before, the black pools drawing her in. "Sakura… I want to see more of you."
She nodded - anything to keep this night going - and he rose back up from her breasts, wrapping his powerful arms around her so that her torso pressed up against his sinewy chest. He wasn't the most built shinobi in the village - the Uchiha body type tended to be strong, yet slender - but he was certainly a fine specimen, a testament to his countless hours spent training, and she delighted in the sensation of his firmness against her. He held her close for several instants, peppering her lips with hot kisses until she'd completely lost count, and then he was guiding her down until her back was flush with the mattress, her cream-colored robe shunted to one side, leaving her fully exposed to his gaze.
Sasuke rose up onto his knees above her, and Sakura again resisted the temptation to curl up into a little ball and hide herself from view. She was a woman, damn it all. There was no reason to be ashamed of her body. Instead, she smiled softly up at him, the hint of alcohol remaining in her bloodstream making her a touch bolder than usual. "Like what you see, Sasuke-kun?"
"Ah." He smirked, his eyes running freely over her nude form, lingering on her chest, her slender waist, and the candy-pink tuft between her thighs. Her confidence growing with the overt admiration in his gaze, she returned the favor, eyes trailing over his torso - broad shoulders, well-sculpted pecs, washboard abs with a hint at a six-pack - and then lower, taking in what could only be described as a sizable bulge in his tight, ANBU-issue pants. He was so, unfairly good-looking.
Sasuke swallowed hard. Dragging his eyes back up to her face with what seemed a fair bit of effort, he licked his lips, his voice dark and inky. "Sakura, show me how you… pleasure yourself." His left hand placed the vibrator in her right one, wrapping her fingers around it in the same, careful manner in which he'd long ago shown her the proper way to grip a kunai back when they'd been new teammates on Squad 7.
At that, Sakura frowned, suddenly a bundle of nerves. Where was that courage she'd shown just a few moments ago when she really needed it? "Um, Sasuke-kun, I've never actually… used this," she admitted, her voice frustratingly small and weak. "Ino got it for me today as an early birthday present, and I was going to test it out for the first time tonight. I'm… sorry."
Ugh, what was she doing? Why was she apologizing? Why did he always make her feel like she needed to apologize? It was just like when she'd been a silly little fan girl, tripping over herself in the hope that some day she'd measure up to…
Wait. Was he… chuckling? Contrary to popular belief, she was aware that Uchiha Sasuke laughed, but he didn't do so often; only when something had truly tickled him. She glared upwards, embarrassment fading to irritation at his ego. He had her naked and horny on her bed, and now he dared to laugh at her? Bastard…
"Sakura," he murmured, his mirth subsiding as he scanned her face, "You really are… annoying."
Oh, yes, he was a fucking bastard, all right. And she was going to make him pay for that. The minute she got on a pair of panties, he was dead. Fuck him and his concussion. Ino was right; she really could do so much -
Before she could make any sort of move, however, he was on top of her, kissing her hard. His pelvis connected with hers, grinding her steadily into the mattress, and she felt her resolve slipping away in a haze of lust. He'd always had impressive reflexes, and it appeared that they were no different in the bedroom. Once he seemed certain that she wasn't about to knock him out, he allowed her a breather, his forehead resting up against hers. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"I didn't want to seem virginal," she admitted without thinking. She felt her cheeks go scarlet as she realized the implications of what she'd said. And just like that, Uchiha Sasuke officially knew she was virgin. Worse and worse.
Sasuke seemed to take the admission in stride, however. If he cared, he didn't show it. Instead, he began to stroke the sides of her torso most tantalizingly, closely watching her. "Ah. And why would that matter?"
"I'm almost twenty-five, Sasuke-kun. The rest of the Konoha 12 are all getting married, and I haven't even had sex yet."
"Hn. Why is that?"
"Because… I haven't found the right person." Well, I have. But it's you.
"Ah." His brow furrowed slightly, and Sakura found herself cursing her misfortune. Five minutes ago, she'd had it all; she was going to put on a little show for the guy of her dreams and then hopefully move on to fucking his brains out. And now… well, she'd fucked it all up. Again. Stupid big mouth. Stupid little Sakura.
"I don't suppose… you'd let me?"
His eyes were locked on hers, no hint of mirth on his face, although the way his body was tensing told her that he was somewhat nervous. Probably afraid that he's about to get clobbered into next Tuesday. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Sakura took a deep breath, thinking hard. She loved him; she'd known that for years. And after tonight… well, it was too much to expect that he'd return her feelings entirely, but it was clear he cared about her. "I… would."
Then, he was kissing her. And kissing her. And kissing her. And she never wanted it to end. And his hands were on her body with a renewed fervor, tracing the outline of her figure, cupping her breasts, making her moan as they slipped over her lower abdomen, across her thighs. And then his lips were making their way down, down past her collarbone, past her nipples, down her stomach, all the way down to the tangle of curls hiding her heated core. And then his hands were on her thighs, holding her open to his gaze, ignoring her protestations that she might not be clean, that it was gross, that he really didn't have to do this, and - oh, Kami - he was licking her there, teasing her. And she couldn't help it, she had to moan, had to thrash, had to grip onto his lovely black hair, full and dark as the night sky outside her window. And oh did it feel good; it was everything Ino had promised, everything she'd always wished for. For this was Sasuke, and he was making her feel so good, and she couldn't help it. She couldn't stand it… couldn't stop it. And then she was screaming and bucking and moaning, and he was licking and nuzzling and teasing, his dark eyes upon her, telling her that this was okay, that this was all right, that she could let go...
And she did. And she came, falling apart with his name on his lips, his rough hands gripping her thighs, relentless as they kept her in place, forcing her to ride out the wave of pleasure overtaking her. And oh, she would do almost anything to experience that again.
Sasuke kissed his way back up her suddenly limp body, his hair mussed rather pleasingly from her grip and a self-satisfied smile on his face. "Good?"
Smug bastard. He knew he was. "Mm," she admitted softly, her hands running along his heated chest as she savored the feeling of his larger body above hers, the softness of the lips that soothed her with surprisingly tender kisses, the subtle scent of pine and smoke that always clung to him. She shut her eyes, delighting in the warm happiness of her orgasm, a strange sense of belonging flooding her senses.
"You're not falling asleep on me, are you? I had more in mind for you… if you wish it."
More. Yes, she could definitely go for more. Pink lashes flickering open, she met Sasuke's ebony eyes with her own jade, smiling happily at the peaceful expression on his face. "I'd like that." There was no embarrassment, no hesitancy between them now. He was hers, and she was his. At least for the night.
She kissed him softly, her lips echoing the promise of her words, and he returned the gesture with a tender warmth that made her toes curl. "Sakura," he murmured against her lips, "This might… be uncomfortable, you know."
"I know. I'm a medic, Sasuke. It's all right. I know that you'd never intentionally hurt me. I want this. I want you. I've always wanted it to be you." She felt a bit like she was babbling… but he needed to know this. All of this.
"Hn." A strange look ran over his face at her admission, but it wasn't the fear or discomfort she'd expected. Instead, his eyes burned with a fire she'd never before seen in his gaze, inspiring her heartbeat to quicken. If she didn't know better, she would have said that that look was one of… but no, that was foolishness. She was letting herself getting carried away by the physicality of what they were doing.
Giving her a final, lingering kiss, he quickly stripped himself of his pants, rose up onto his knees, and positioned himself between her spread thighs, aligning himself with her core. Glancing down between them, she felt her eyes widen slightly at the sight of his erection. That was certainly… something. "Like what you see, Sakura?"
Of course, the smart ass threw her words from earlier right back at her. Cocky bastard. Preparing herself to make some sort of comment about being entitled to look, the words died on her lips, shifting to a moan of half-pleasure, half-pain as a new sensation flooded her senses. "Oh, Kami, Sasuke," she gasped, her hands gripping into the bedspread as she attempted to adjust to the sensation of him. All right, yes, he had reason to be proud. He was going to split her in half with that thing if he wasn't careful. But he was careful. So careful and gentle as he eased his way into her that she found fat, happy tears welling at the corners of her eyes, threatening to spill over any moment. Couldn't she do anything without dissolving into an emotional puddle?
And, of course, being him, he noticed. Dark eyes that had been hooded with pleasure widened into a look of striking concern. "Sakura, you're crying. Should I stop?"
"N-n-n-no, that's all right," she gasped out weakly, the tears starting to fall down her hot cheeks at the realization of how much he cared. What a mess. "Keep going. I'm not crying… because it hurts. It's because… I've wanted this for so damn long…"
"Ah." For over a decade, she'd hated those stupid monosyllables. The "Hns," the "Ahs," and, most of all, the damnable, "Tchs." She'd realized long ago that they were a linguistic weapon, a little mannerism, as sharp as the kunai and shuriken he favored, that he used to effectively cut off conversation and avoid any and all prying. But now, well, she had a new appreciation for "ah," at least. The sheer simplicity of those two little letters; the way his eyes widened knowingly as he uttered it, acknowledging that he understood what she meant, that there was no need to say anything further, that she could trust him to make it all better… well, it made her cry a bit harder.
But they were happy tears. And she hadn't lied. It didn't really hurt. Very much. In fact, as he slowly began to set his pace, his hips gently easing back and forth, softly pushing himself into her and then retreating, she found that it felt rather… good. In fact… "Sasuke, I want… more."
"Hn, more, Sakura?" Oh Kami, "hn" sounded pretty dang good when he said it like that, too. He picked up the pace, and she rolled her hips upwards to meet his, beginning to pant from the intensity of the pleasure building up inside her. Leaning over, Sasuke's lips met her own, and she moaned into him as he hit a particularly interesting spot deep within her. "You're so fucking tight," he whispered against her lips, his voice low, rough, and ragged as his hips continued their dance. "I can't stand it… much longer..."
Sakura wasn't sure she could either. Her fingers gripped into his back as he stepped up the pace another notch, and she found her tongue suddenly begging for entrance into Sasuke's heated mouth. French kissing had never done a thing for her - the one time she'd tried it with Kiba, it had basically ended the relationship - but with Sasuke, it was different; all warm sensuality and soft intimacy. Too soon, however, his lips broke away from hers, and he placed a searing kiss on her forehead, shutting his eyes in a what appeared to be almost painful pleasure. "Sakura, touch yourself."
What? Why did he want… that? His dark eyes opened, meeting hers, the intensity of his gaze laser focused. "Sakura." His breath was rather labored as he continued thrusting, "I want you to come… but I can't hold on for much longer. Touch yourself. Please."
Please. Biting her lip, Sakura trailed her right hand down to where they were joined, fingers finding her clit and beginning to trace little circles that soon had her bucking in pleasure beneath him. Beneath Sasuke... her Sasuke… and it was so good. So so good. Too good…
Suddenly, he let out a broken cry, her name on his lips, and he began to thrust even harder than before, all sense of control gone, the ecstasy of his orgasm etched into his face. With a shriek that she was rather afraid would wake the neighbors, Sakura followed him over the precipice moments later, and then it was all over, a tangle of overheated limbs, passionate lips, sweaty sheets, and sweet nothings ushering in their postcoital bliss.
They lay in the dark for some time after before drifting off, naked under the covers, Sasuke's left arm draped gently over her hip, his warm chest pressed comfortingly up against her back. Feeling sleep begin to cloud her senses, Sakura let out a contented sigh. It was hard to say what tomorrow would bring, but one thing was certain… she owed Ino one hell of a thank you note.