The hardest thing in life is to know

Which bridge to cross and

Which to burn . . .

It was just like him to have such a hard and unforgiving bed, she thought as she encased herself in his contradictory soft, worn blankets. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew that this moment was important. It was a first and firsts were always important. It was a defining moment, she thought, that would forever change her life. She ignored the voice inside that told her she was sixteen and anything that happened with a member of the opposite sex would be a moment to never be forgotten.

No, she told herself as she turned to lay flat on her back, hands fisted at her sides. She would be rational about this; she would not be reduced to some sort of mindless, blindly infatuated idiot girl. She'd had enough of that with him. With Sasuke. This would be different. It had to be. That was the whole point, wasn't it?

Her eyes opened and narrowed, and the front of her right wrist rested on her forehead.

I'm expected to meet Hokage-sama soon, he had said.

He'd put her in his bed without a word, easily lifting and carrying her. It wasn't the first time he had done so, but at that moment it had seemed so different and new than anything else before. Then she'd watched him pull on his vest and shoes, looked up at him shyly as he softly touched her face in goodbye, and smiled softly as he left and carefully closed the door behind him.

Sakura giggled.

She was alone in his apartment, alone in his bed. She could look through all his cabinets and drawers, but she knew she was not brave enough to face the consequences of doing so. He would know right away what she had touched as soon as he returned. It was of no consequence, as she was in no rush to find anything she might not be ready to see.

/I'm floating . . . floating. . . ./

It was a silly thought. So silly, really, but a lazy and content grin found its way onto her lips. She breathed in deeply the scent of the pillow her head lay on – his scent. It was warm and woodsy and male and something she couldn't quite put her finger on. He didn't smell like a rainy afternoon or sunny field, he was just . . . wholly encompassing. There was nothing that compared to it, simply because there was nothing else quite like it.

/Mmm . . . so nice. . . ./

It felt so warm, so nice, and so safe to be cocooned in his bed. It felt so . . .


Kakashi had never carried Sasuke to his bed, or Naruto.

/Only me./

Of course, she knew that it was very likely he had carried other women to his bed, but that was all right, because now it put her on the same ground as those women, those women who were older and more sophisticated than she was, women he had wanted in his bed. Now he wanted her there. And that made all the difference.

Her arms hugged his pillows close to her body. She wanted to leave her scent there and claim this bed as hers so that when he went to bed the next night, he would breathe it in and think of her and only her. The way she was thinking of him, his touch, his dusky eyes, his strong hands. . . .

She sighed.

I'd thought I'd found my place

Before I knew how much it costs to play it safe.

When he returned, it was with a bloody bandaged hand and a weary eye that squinted from the late afternoon sun. His shoulders were low and hunched and his gait slow and drawn. Going back to an empty apartment was no new predicament. Not for him, at least. If he could have a coin for every time he came home alone, injured and tired, well . . . he would be a wealthy man indeed.

His door creaked as he pushed it open. He never oiled the hinges because the loud and harsh sound would alert him if someone were ever foolish enough to open it without his permission. And it was soothing; his life was full of dangerous surprises and unexpected threats, and it was comforting to have something as mundane as the sound of a door creaking open that he could rely on.

He looked up. Someone was in his bed. Trained instinct had him reaching for his kunai.

Rosy hair fanned against an off white pillow, a small and delicate face peeked out from underneath the sheets.


He laughed silently and ruefully. How could he have forgotten?

He glanced up at her again. No, he had not forgotten, but he had stopped himself from hoping that she would still be there, lying in his bed. He couldn't remember the last time there was someone at home waiting for him, someone to return to. As he silently made his way towards the bed, he let himself enjoy the sight before him, ignoring his otherwise constant caution and qualms.

He shouldn't have felt so relieved.

And by no means should he have felt that surge of possessiveness run through him as he gazed down at her pale and peaceful face. He had always been slightly more protective and considerate towards her. It was unfair and biased, but he had always made an extra effort with Sakura. Perhaps it was his nagging conscience for paying most of his attention to her male teammates, or maybe it was simply because she was a girl and the weakest of all of them. Whatever it was that made him want to take care of her, that feeling intensified as he looked down at her sleeping figure.

She was so still, and he knew this picture would forever be etched into his memories. Not because it made him feel warm inside or made his heart flutter. In truth, it did neither of those things. It was because he knew that this was the beginning, and in the beginning of all things, whether it be relationships or fights or duties, circumstances always favored both sides. It was still the first day for them; early enough in their battle that he could have her in his bed without fear or guilt or anything he knew he would subsequently feel. He knew that later on, in months, weeks, days to come, their... arrangment would only become more and more difficult for them. Clandestine meetings and whispered nothings would come later on. But for now, they were safe.

And because he knew there might never be another moment like this, he stayed silent and still for as long as he could and watched her sleep.

Give me time to realize my crimes . . .

Waking up wasn't the bad part; in fact, waking up was quite a nice feeling if one had the time to truly revel in its glowing haziness. It was right at that moment when the mind started to clear and the weight of sleepy eyelids started to lighten, right at that moment, when thoughts were blurry and had no room for purpose, consequence, or memory; it was then when one could truly feel good and whole without any doubts or fears.

It was rising out of this perfect moment that was the hard part.

As soon as the cloudiness subsided, Sakura let out a sigh on content and lazily opened her eyes. Her smile was so wide it hurt her face.

she said shyly, a soft blush tingeing her cheeks.

/Was he watching me sleep?! Oh no, what if I was snoring? Or slept with my mouth open?!/

He was sitting on the edge of the bed, elbows resting on his knees. Sakura bit down on her lip, a nervous habit, and felt her blush deepen. She never cursed her pale skin as much as she did at that moment.

Um, did you just get back?

He nodded.

/Right. Okay. This is weird. . . ./

She felt awkward and desperately tried to remember the women in her favorite romantic movies. What did they do in situations like this? Should she act coy and flutter her eyelashes? Act as if nothing happened? Purr and demand that he get in bed with her?!

/Hell no!! I'm not ready for that!!/

It was then that she noticed his right hand, covered in ragged bandages with blood seeping through. She gasped as she abruptly sat up, taking the injured hand into hers without thinking.

What happened? she demanded.

It's nothing for you to worry about, he answered, sounding only slightly surprised as he pulled his hand back.

Right, of course it's nothing, she snapped while getting up and stomping towards the kitchen. He let out a long and defeated sigh, but made no move to get up. He raised his head when he heard her footsteps coming towards him. She cradled a bowl in one arm and held towels in the other.

Do you have anything that can be used as dressing? she asked as she set down the bowl of water on the stand next to the bed. Instead of answering, he reached over and opened the top drawer of the night stand, pulling out a roll of white bandages before placing it next to the water.

He was silent as she stood in front of him, once again taking his hand into her much smaller ones. His eyes were concentrated on her throat, not wanting to watch her wash his wounds because it was too personal for his liking, but unable to keep his eyes completely off of her. She unraveled the bandages on his hand and cleaned the wound the best she could. It was a clean cut, a perfect line of red against silvery pale skin. Self-inflicted.

You're a masochist.

He raised his brow at her, momentarily distracted from his view of her lovely white throat.

You're always hurting yourself. Purposefully. I can't stand it.

Her voice was soft and clipped, her mouth set in a thin line.

He had a thousand and one jutsus and she thought it was quite possible that a third of them involved him slicing one of his body parts open, usually his hand. It was disgusting. Stupid, even. Some macho way of taking it like a man.

He remained silent, eyes steadfast and hollow. When she moved to rewrap the bindings on his hand, her body leaned into his, her hip against his shoulder. She bit down on the inside of her cheek and decidedly sat on his knee, her eyes never leaving the task at hand. She ignored the heat spreading from the back of her neck to the front of her chest and prayed silently that he wouldn't notice. They both knew he did.

Something akin to relief blossomed in her belly when his arm casually went around her, resting a hand on her hip. He always did things like that, she thought, little actions to let her know it was okay. He was hesitant and reserved, but he had still touched her. He'd meant it.

So . . . what are we doing today?Yes, we, she replied, suddenly feeling cold. Oh, just forget it. She hurriedly taped the bindings and tried to move away. His hand grabbed her wrist before she could stand.

I have paperwork to do, he said softly in that annoyingly careless, low voice he had, right by her ear. Wait until I'm done.

She got the distinct impression that it was more of an order than a request and almost called him on it, but he was just so close. So instead, she nodded and stared down and away from him, her eyes boring holes into the wood grain of his floorboards. Her heart was beating in a strange and offbeat rhythm, and her palms were sweating and trembling at odd moments. It was worse because he wasn't even trying to do this to her; it was her own body reacting this way against her will because it was confused and startled. It wasn't used to having another person so close to it.

Sakura closed her eyes and made a silent plea to whoever was listening, /make me brave, oh please, just let me be brave enough for this. . . ./

This . . . he started slowly, this can not be something you talk about to your friends, Sakura.

She bristled at this.

What exactly is this' anyway?

Sakura mentally slapped herself. She had made a point of remembering from a certain article in one of her magazines that you should never ask men to talk about where you stand or where is this going.

He didn't answer her.

I won't tell anyone, don't worry, she said weakly, but she felt as though a rock was sliding down her throat and into her belly. She didn't want this to be wrong, to be something other people would condemn. Who were they to judge? It wasn't as though they had really done anything . . .

. . . Not yet.

He was already shaking his head, already regretting. She was beginning to hate it when he did that.

Panicking, she did the only thing she knew that would stop it. Turning her body so that it would face his, she slid her hands onto his shoulders and pressed her cheek against his. It was a gesture of reassurance, understanding.

She wanted to tell him that it was okay, that he wasn't doing anything wrong, that she wanted this too, and that he wasn't taking advantage of her. She willed him to understand.

/I'm not stupid, I know how this works. I'll be careful. We'll be careful. No one needs to know. I want this. I want this./

I want this, she whispered to him.

It wasn't until his arms came out of their own volition and around her waist that she started to breathe again.

Author's Note:

I like this as the end.