Well, here it is, my second Naruto fanfic. English isn't my first language, so I'm pretty sure there are a lot of grammatical mistakes. I would really appreciate constructive criticism too. Hope you enjoy it!

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, although I really wish I did. It all goes to Kishimoto-sama.

Years Passing By

By: Nekare

She was fifteen and she was free. She had realized a month ago just how childish her crush on her dark-haired teammate was. She still loved him of course, in the same brotherly way she loved her obnoxious and blonde companion. But her heart was free, free to be given to anyone she chose.

Did she want too? Because she felt fine the way she was.

So she laughed at Naruto's jokes, sometimes even forgetting to hit him for being an idiot. And she finally talked as an equal to Sasuke, meeting the real one in the process, learning that inside he was just a lonely boy searching for a reason to exist. And she became the sister he never had.

And old battered friendship was continued, and both she and Ino laughed at the way they had used to fight over the idolized form of the pale boy Sakura had grown to know.

She learned there was a big world out there waiting to be conquered, so she smiled warmly at her sensei, asking without a sound that he thought her well, so she could protect those she loved.

He just nodded in understanding.

She was seventeen and a chuunin. She was no longer the scared little twelve-year-old she had been, but a strong, dependable medical nin; one that knew she was good at what she did and took pride in it. She was strong now, and she loved the feeling of it.

Gaining the respect of the three most important men in his life had been hard, but it made it even sweeter in the end when they just couldn't help but finally acknowledge her. Surprisingly, the legendary copy-ninja Kakashi was the one that did it first.

She hadn't known it yet, but he had always had faith in her.

The day she had gotten her promotion over a year ago, her friends had dragged her to a bar to celebrate, not caring that none of them had the legal age to drink. They had had the time of their lives, all of them too inebriated to care about the raging war outside the door. Even Sasuke and Neji - secretly called the Ice Kings by some of the girls after them -had drunk without reserves, and everyone had remembered for years the way they had sung 'Take My Breath Away' in a small karaoke bar filled to the top with alcohol, smoke and drunk people.

however, the best part of the night for Sakura had been when her – now former – teacher had pulled her aside, had congratulated her and without any second thoughts pulled his mask down, letting her see his grin for the first time. Her eyes had widened for a second before narrowing in a glare, and he never saw coming the punch to his jaw. She had screamed at him for shattering five years of continuous mystery; but inwardly she had screamed in joy. He had just chuckled, brought his mask back up and treated her yet another drink.

She had smiled when she realized he trusted her.

She was nineteen and she was in love.

She hadn't liked it when she realized it, though, after she had became addicted to the taste of freedom. Maybe she had just been selfish when she hadn't wanted to get hurt.


Maybe it was the fourteen years the man her heart had chosen – without her mind's permission – had ahead of her.

She had found out just how much she cared for the masked man when he had almost been killed in a mission. Everyone knew he was part of Konoha's elite, so no one was surprised when he was sent in one of the most dangerous missions in the last five years. Everyone was surprised, though, when he dragged himself back – quite literally, too – half dead.

She had stayed by his side almost every day of the month it took him to recover, taking shifts with Naruto and Sasuke to watch him; every few days going to her apartment to take a shower, put on some clean clothes and pass out from fatigue in her own bed. It had always broken her heart to see any of her three men down from an injury, but as he recovered, she started to realize she had never stayed for quite so long with the other two; she had never let her hand linger in their foreheads as she used the excuse of checking for a fever; just as she had never fallen asleep next to them in their beds, needing the reassurance of their beating hearts.

She had hit him when she finally figured it out. Then she had proceeded to apologize a hundred times while she tended his reopened wounds. If he had ever wondered at the reason of the punch, or the whispered apologies, he never voiced it out.

She had cursed love to hell and the Godaime for her damned fast treatments and teachings the day he had finally healed completely and she was no longer needed; when she was no longer allowed to sleep by his side with no questions asked. Then she had cursed herself and sunk her head into the pillow for being such an unfeeling bitch.

She hadn't known it yet, but he had faked illness for a few weeks longer than necessary.

She was twenty and she was lying in a bed with a man fourteen years older than herself.

The breathing of the silver-haired man beside her and the rain hitting lightly on the window were the only things that could be heard in the room. A contented smile touched her lips when she felt him tightening his arm around her waist, face buried in her back. She couldn't help but giggle a little at the thought that he slept as a cat, curled up and searching for any heat source available. She wasn't fooled by the appearance of heavy sleep, though; she knew he would be awake in an instant and ready for the kill if it was needed.

She'd never expected the night to end like this. She had been training alone and a few minutes short of his sudden appearance the rain had pounded heavily on them. Maybe it had been a mistake to invite him over to her apartment to dry themselves off and drink some hot tea. Probably, it had been a mistake to kiss him. And most likely, it had been a mistake to fall onto the bed with him; all tangled limbs and heated words.

But she didn't regret one bit of it.

Sighing happily, she inched closer to the warmth his body offered; for a moment not caring what tomorrow would bring. Whatever this night would be the next day, being a beginning, a way to let out pent up frustration with a friend; or what it looked from every angle, a mistake; she would face it. After all, she was a jounin now. She fell asleep with a contented smile lighting her features.

And to think she hadn't even needed to get him drunk to get him into her bed. And it had been such a great plan too…