AN: Okay, the third installation of my omake, Sore Ga AI Deshou! is here! This time, we'll focus on ShikaIno, as a special request by one of the reviewers. Next chapter will be a NaruHina, and after that, you can send in your requests, because I love having omake in this collection. My sister said I should make it a separate series, but I'm adamant. It will stay as omake.

Sore Ga AI Deshou! – Nara Takeshi
Disclaimer: I'm tired of disclaiming, so this goes for the whole series. I don't own Naruto. Comprende?
Nara Takeshi knew he had inherited some very bad genes when he was told he was lazy ass. From the way his mother talked about his father, it almost seemed she regretted marrying him. Secretly, the blond boy thought his father should be the one regretting being married to such a troublesome woman.

But then, being married to troublesome women seemed to run in his family, since he had heard that his grandfather, and even before that, had been married to troublesome women. Even he was being bossed around by his teammate, Uchiha Setsuna, although he couldn't imagine them married. Her father would cook him alive even before she could.

The men of the Nara were poor henpecked souls.

His laziness didn't really have any effect on his natural skill of being observant though. So he noticed his mother was more harried than usual as he hung around their flower shop. She was bossier, and her tongue was sharper – she had snapped at an innocent bystander (who turned out to be the revered Hyuuga weapons mistress) for touching the flower arrangement that she had just painstakingly put together.

And so it was that when he decided to hang around the shop for a while, it was a big mistake. A harried mother and a lazy son just didn't mix well. "Takeshi-kun, bring that bunch of cattleyas over here," she ordered as customers began pouring in like a flood.

"Pshaw, get it yourself," Takeshi answered dully as he stared at the clouds from behind the shop's clear glass. "It's a half meter from you – you could easily reach for it."

"Takeshi-kun," the Nara woman muttered dangerously, "if you talk like your lazy-ass of a father, I swear I'll make you eat soap from today till you become a jounin, which by the way, you're too lazy to become."

"Fine, fine!" Takeshi exclaimed, knowing the threat could become reality. "So troublesome," he muttered under his breath as he transferred the cattleyas onto the countertop.

"Make sure your mother doesn't hear you say that," a voice in his ear said, and he looked up to see his father. He sighed in relief, and made a small noise when the older Nara ruffled his white-blond hair.

"You say that too," he complained, but his father only smiled in a bored manner. The twelve-year old glared up at him. "Why'd you marry such a troublesome woman, anyway? Do you really love that kind of attitude?"

"I asked my father the same question when I was your age," his father said, watching his wife bark out orders to the other workers in the shop. "You'll understand when you're older."

The blue-eyed woman caught sight of them. "What are you both standing there for? Get to work! Shikamaru, why are you influencing your son to become a lazy-ass? I still have to make the flower arrangement Sakura asked me to make! Shikamaru, am I the only one stressing here? Stop slacking and help me!" Then she turned her wrath on her other workers. Takeshi glanced at his father, who had the look of a henpecked man once more.

"So… why'd you marry that?" he asked shrewdly. The Nara patriarch raised his eyes to the heavens.

Truth be told, Takeshi almost pitied his mother now, as she got more stressed. I guess it's kinda hard to run a shop with help outta reach, he thought. His mother's blue eyes looked as though they were near tears. Oh boy. He looked up at his father, who had the most curious expression on his face.

The blonde woman turned to them again. "Shikamaru, come on, help me out here! This is hard, you know! Stop being a slacker and give me a hand!" Her voice was nagging, but her eyes were pleading. She whipped her long hair away from her eyes with a graceful flick of her wrist. "These customers are such a pain – I really need the extra help! Shika, are you even listening? Stop staring in space and listen to me! Shikamaru, if you don't listen I'll stick an anthurium up your-"

"Ino," Takeshi's father said easily, putting his hands in his pockets and smiling slightly, "do you know you have such a nice way of putting your hair away from your eyes?"

This threw both Takeshi and his mother off guard. The young Nara looked from his mother to his father and waited for the explosion. Nara Ino had an unreadable expression on her face.

But the explosion never happened. Instead, the flower femme had a soft smile on her face, and Takeshi made sure he looked away as she kissed her husband on the cheek. "That's sweet, Shika-kun," she murmured. But she grinned evilly at him, and the male Nara looked apprehensive. "But that doesn't excuse you from working. Now, come on."

As he watched his parents work in the shop, odd but peaceful smiles on their faces, a thought crossed his mind.

When someone can make your bad day better by giving the most obscure compliment, then… sore ga ai deshou.

AN: After not updating for a few days short of an entire year, here is the next installment! I've been focusing so much on The Legends in the Making, Gaia Online, and most importantly, school, and I've quite neglected this one. I'm truly sorry, everyone. :bows frantically at everyone:

All my gratitude to: Saiyanfanatics, everlastingxwish (It means, "That's love"), CrAzY-SiLLy-Me, Shin Chim Hye, Tears like Crystals, emina-anime, December Jewel, Darkofthenight, Sakuranime, Aria's star, Dying On The Inside, kyasarinyume07, susakuru, Note-binder, ShinkuNoTenshi, OO, sweetmaiden, ArishaGinkaze, Brandy Camel, cutiepie777, neon kun, Ayane Selznick, boredteenager ("kasabot ko, pramis" XD), almarilyo, Krissel Himura, Celestartial Blossoms, ligice76, Oukaru Hanako, animemistress419, Queen Cow and Steak, chimamire, lilxangelxsweetz, Sienna Alexanderson, Me-Sama, Anna, halosangel, Hai Kami Cookie-Chan, rumiko-serenity, pink weasel, Postal Service, aya.chaos's cousin, Reni-Chan, sarafu-chan, kittydemon18,ToCOrNot 77, koa-chan, Denisen, Zen-san, Epiff Annie, Mayumi Nakashima, AiTenshiKosmos (yup, in Japan, it's the girl who does the asking), akari, Green Animelover, kagomefaves, evilteddybear, luv,angel-muzik,baby, Shiro Aki, psychopiratess, Crystal Renee, serenitatis417, Pink Shinobi, StarryMelody, Kanami, Sarah Rebecca, emeraldoni, daydreamer53221, Archerelf, tarzi-kins, HyperMM, MM-Kokopelli, kattylin... and those lovely people who deserve all the Naruto-shaped balloons in the world!

Well, in this one, it'll be composed of several of my chibi!SasuSaku fantasies. 'Nuff said.

Marshmallow 11:

Importance of Things: Minute

For Haruno Sakura, it was those memories of little moments that grounded her to her goal.
She was four, and it was a typical weekend. She had no friends to play with, but it wasn't that she minded – her four-year-old mind was too young to conceive the idea that it was lonely to be alone.

Her mother didn't know she had been slipping out of the house lately, and she always came back before her mother could notice. (Perhaps that was her destiny to become a ninja coming out of her.) There was so much of the fascinating outside world to see; the smells, the sounds, and the lovely feeling of being a child in the spring gave her such a rush, one that she didn't understand nor tried to understand.

Today she wandered off to the lake she had discovered far beyond the reaches of home. The air was cool around the lake, and the wind made ripples in the water. She stood by the wooden dock's edge and tried to grasp the minnows that had gathered under the shadow of the dock's underside, and the minnows scattered away. Then and again, she made small ripples with her small white hands till her hand was numb with the water's cold.

Then she stood up and decided to pick flowers to make a crown. The white daisies she spied, however, were on top of the hill with a road leading away from it. The way up was grassy, and the hill was a little steep, but she bunched up her pastel pink dress and scrambled up to reach the flowers.

Sakura stretched her hand, careful not to slip on the dewy grass. She grasped the grass under her hands, and made a grab for the white daisies. She swiped, but then she missed. She put out her lower lip in annoyance, then stuck her tongue out in concentration. She pushed herself up to grab the flowers again. Just a little further… just a little further… and…

A foot appeared.

Sakura looked up, and met wide obsidian eyes.

Her distraction made her miss grabbing the daisies. Furthermore, the surprise of finding someone other than herself in that place made her lose her footing. She grabbed desperately at the moist grass around her, trying to clamber up the hill, her slipper-clad feet trying to find even footing, but a second later-


-she was rolling down the hill.

She landed on the soft grass of the lakeside with a thump, a little dazed and her hair covered in grass. "Owie," she mumbled, scrunching up her nose, her eyes shut closed.

Her eyes fluttered open, and she found the owner of the obsidian eyes that had distracted her looking down on her with a mildly puzzled expression. "Are you okay?" the boy asked.

She nodded, closing her eyes and waiting for the boy to leave. She was a little embarrassed, and she didn't expect him to stay out of concern (because hardly anyone did that around her). But when she opened her eyes again, she found him, sitting beside her, a finger dangling her now broken right slipper.

"It broke?"

"It did," the boy confirmed. Sakura sighed as she sat up. Now she would have to walk home barefoot.

She waited for the raven-haired boy to give the slipper back to her, but he was still examining it. "Can I have it back?" she asked after a while.

"No," the boy said. Sakura pouted indignantly, but he smiled slightly at her. "I can fix it."

She cocked her head to the side, feeling curious. Could he fix it? He looked about her age, and she didn't really think he could do it. In fact, something told her he might take off with it and leave her missing a slipper. Boys did that sometimes.

But something else told her to trust him. And being naturally trusting, she watched quietly as he fiddled with the slipper's strap. She spread her legs and wiggled her toes, patiently waiting for her slipper to be repaired. The boy tore a cattail from the lakeside and removed the fluffy end. Then he used the long stem to tie the slipper's strap back into place. "There," he finally said, twirling the slipper around to admire his handiwork.

Sakura put the slipper on her foot and wiggled her toes again. "It won't come off anymore?"

"For a bit," the boy replied, shrugging.

"Till I get home?"


"How come you know how to fix it?"

"Niisan taught me."

Sakura blinked her green optics. "Oh. You have a niisan."

The boy seemed enthusiastic about his brother and grinned. "He's the best."

"I don't have a niisan," Sakura said offhandedly, wiggling her toes again to see if the strap would break if she did.

"Why?" the boy asked.

"I don't know."

The boy watched her wiggle her toes for a while. Then he asked, "Why didn't you take the stairs?" He pointed to the staircase leading up the hill.

"I don't know," Sakura said again, looking at him. She smiled. "It's more fun to climb, I guess."

After a few minutes of comfortable silence, Sakura stood up and patted her dress clean. "Bye-bye. Thank you."

"You're welcome," the boy replied. "Bye."

Sakura gave him one last smile and a wave, and he returned it. The pink-haired girl ran off, completely forgetting about making daisy chain crowns. When she got home, her mother seemed to have found out she had been leaving the house (and she supposed the grass in her hair didn't help, either) and forbade her to go out of the house without her until she was old enough to go to school.

It was a pity, she had thought back then, because she hadn't thought to ask for his name.

She was five and a half, and she had just started the Ninja Academy that spring. The lessons were hard, and the physical stuff was even harder. That day, they had taken various physical and written tests, and she was drained from everything. It didn't help that she was slightly younger than her classmates.

Sakura decided to rest before going home, because she felt that if she walked home in this condition, she would probably collapse in exhaustion in the middle of the road. So she sat down on the stairs of the empty dojo and watched the other children go home, either by ones, twos, threes, or more. She was still alone, but she was unbelievably shy and didn't know how to make friends. Now that she was a little older than four, it was starting to hurt.

She closed her eyes, feeling drained in all aspects. Maybe she wasn't fit to be a ninja – she wasn't smart or strong or even energetic.

Maybe I should just quit…

She opened her eyes again, and horror sank deep into her stomach – what had been late afternoon when she closed her eyes was now night. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she began to panic. How many hours had it been since she fell asleep? More importantly, did she have to go home alone in the dark? Her mind flooded with all the horror stories that her classmates told – about ghosts of vengeful ninja, or about kidnappers preying on little children.


She jumped right out of her skin, too frightened to even scream. What was that?! She looked around her surroundings, using her bag to shield herself from whatever unknown predator there was in the empty school. The ghost stories about the Academy came back to her, like the one where the Nidaime Hokage's ghost still roamed the Academy grounds, or about that headless kunoichi who would come floating around the corner at random during the night.

She scrunched herself up into the tiniest ball she could form. Thud! She heard it again, and she was about ready to pass out.

She heard three successive thuds, footsteps, and quick draws of breath. She resisted the urge to shriek.

Calm down… what was it Iruka-sensei said again? Yeah – always think rationally. She whimpered to herself. But what does "rationally" mean?!

Five successive thuds, footsteps, a skidding noise, then- "UGH!"

Sakura couldn't take it anymore. "KYAAAAAAAA!" she shrieked, diving into the nearest bush.

She heard footsteps coming out of the dojo, and she realized that her foot had twisted in an odd angle and was shooting tendrils of pain up her leg. She had managed to twist it as she leapt into the bush. She had nowhere to run, if she even could. She heard the bushes rustle, and saw a hand reaching into the bush – towards her face.

"KYAAAA! Ghost-san, don't eat me!!!!"

"What are you talking about?"

She opened her terror-filled eyes and saw that a raven-haired boy had her by the wrist, attempting to pull her out of the bushes. Her stunned mind finally began to process that it wasn't a ghost who had been making all those noises.

"Sa-sa-sasuke-kun?" she stuttered, breathing hard after becoming frightened so badly.

"Sakura, isn't it?" he asked, a dubious look on his face. "What're you doing here so late?"

She glared at him as he pulled her up – she somehow forgot to be shy in her shock. "You scared me!"

"You're not answering my question," he shot back. "I thought I was alone till you started screaming. What're you doing here at this hour?"

She shot him a defiant look, though her cheeks were colored with embarrassment. "I could ask you the same th- OW!"

She had attempted to put her weight on her left foot, and she remembered she had twisted it. "Owww," she moaned, trying to balance on one foot.

"It's swollen," Sasuke observed.

"Great," Sakura mumbled to herself, not in the best of moods. "I'm tired, I'm hungry, it's dark, and I hurt my foot. How am I going to get home now?"

"I'll walk you home."

Sakura stared at Sasuke. "You? Walk me home?"

"Okay, carry you home, if your foot is that bad," Sasuke amended a little irritably, scratching his nape. He looked a little discomfited as well. "I have a favor to repay, so…"

Sakura, felt pleasantly surprised, even as she couldn't remember whatever "favor" he was talking about. Since the first week of the entrance ceremony, Uchiha Sasuke already had a lot of admirers, not counting the teachers who were blown away by his prodigious skill. As far as she knew, He had already been invited by certain groups of girls to do things she didn't comprehend, but he always turned them down. He never let himself get close to anyone, so Sakura realized that this was a major step for him.


Sasuke nodded, smiling tiredly. "Let me get my things. I was going home anyway."

Soon enough, Sakura was settled on Sasuke's back as he gave her a piggyback ride home. "I'm tired and I'm hungry," Sakura grumbled to herself. "I wish I were home. Turn right here," she added, addressing Sasuke. He shifted her weight and turned the corner.

"Stop complaining," he scolded. "A shinobi mustn't complain under any circumstance. It could be worse. My niisan taught me that."

"I wasn't complaining," Sakura murmured defensively, burying her face into his shirt. "I'm just saying it like it is. At least I get a ride home." She giggled.

"Lucky you," Sasuke muttered sarcastically, but she imagined he was smiling.

At that point, a magenta-haired woman had come running towards them and had picked Sakura up from Sasuke's back. Her mother began telling her how worried she was and that she and her father had come looking for her when she didn't come home. But Sakura wasn't listening. She was watching Sasuke's back retreat from her gaze, without even saying goodbye.

Unbeknownst to her, one Watanabe Ami had seen the kindness of Uchiha Sasuke towards her, and the bullying would start the next day.

She was almost seven, and the bullying had stopped, somehow. But her protector, Yamanaka Ino, had to take a special class for failing at a subject, and now she was alone in the playground, sitting on the swing set. She swung silently – till now she didn't dare stand out and swing too high, in case it would draw the bullies toward her. It was an old habit.

"Well, how do you do, Forehead Girl?"

Sakura froze, gripping the swing's chains. Without even turning, she knew that sickly sweet voice was Ami's, and that she stood no chance against her and her cronies. She remained in her seat, unmoving, until Ami made an impatient noise and positioned herself in front of Sakura, who refused to meet her eye.

"Why, how rude!" Ami sneered. "Forehead Girl refuses to greet me!"

Sakura thought of how Ino told her not to be intimidated by name-calling, and raised her head to meet Ami's eyes. "My name is Sakura," she said quietly.

"Really?" Ami's friend asked mockingly. Another pulled her head back by the hair. "I dunno about you, Ami-chan, but 'Forehead Girl' suits her just fine."

"Let go!" Sakura cried, trying not to lose her balance as she struggled from the bully's grasp.

"Ooh, Forehead Girl's fighting back!" Their cruel laughter resonated in her ears, but she continued struggling.

"Hey, I just thought of a game we could play!" Ami exclaimed. "Let's make Forehead Girl go all the way over the swing set!"

"Ami-chan! Isn't that dangerous?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Ami responded airily. "If Forehead Girl is really a shinobi, she wouldn't die." She grinned at Sakura. "Right, Sakura?"

Sakura didn't get a chance to respond as the three bullies began swinging her as hard as they could. The chains creaked dangerously, and the pink-haired girl couldn't even scream in terror, clutching desperately at the chains. At the rate they were pushing her, she would surely go over, or fly off the swing. Her sweaty palms were slipping from their tight hold around the chain.

Ami and her friends gave her one big shove, and her grip slackened. In one horrible moment, she sailed in the air and landed prostate on the ground when shinobi reflex failed her. Her vision was hazy and she was sure the back of her head was bleeding. Her entire body felt sore and bruised. "Did she die?" one of Ami's friends squealed.

"Nah, she's just pretending to be unconscious," Ami said. "Look at the way she's chewing her lip!" She kicked Sakura in the gut. "What're you going to do now, Forehead Girl?" She kicked Sakura again, and this time, the green-eyed girl let out a cry. "Ino isn't here to protect you! You're weak on your own!"

"No one's going to help you now!" Ami and her friends taunted, laughing.

That's right, I'm weak without Ino-chan, Sakura thought to herself, trying to stop her tears from flowing as she shielded herself. It'll always be like this.

"No one, huh…"

The kicking stopped. Sakura looked up to see Ami and her friends become mesmerized with the perfect sight that was Uchiha Sasuke. "Sasuke-kun!" Ami squealed. "We were just punishing Forehead Girl for-"

"For being such a weak kunoichi that she can't even defend herself?" Sasuke asked, and the girls tittered. Sakura found that those words hurt more, now that they came from someone as skilled as Sasuke. She hung her head low. "Yeah, well," he added, "I don't like people who are weak. But then," he glared at the bullies, who recoiled, "she'll grow out of it. But you probably won't grow out of being bullies, and I hate bullies more."

"B-but Sasuke-kun…" Ami simpered, but Sasuke's glare only deepened.

"Just leave her alone," he said impatiently, and Ami and her friends finally retreated. Sakura picked herself up, wiping away the grime from her skin. The Uchiha boy, who now sat beside her, looked slightly concerned as she tried to clean up the best she could.

"I'm okay," Sakura said, smiling at him.

He seemed surprised and embarrassed. "I didn't ask," he muttered defensively, whipping his head away, but Sakura could see his ears had turned red.

She smiled sadly. "You're always helping me."

"Not always," Sasuke replied, still looking away.

"One day, I'll be stronger than this."

"Oh, really."

"Yeah, really! I'll become stronger than Ami!"


"And," she glared at him, in the most determined fashion, "I won't need anyone to protect me."

Sasuke met her blazing eyes, deliberating them. "Right," he said skeptically.

Sakura took offense at this. "Of course I'm right. I'll be the one protecting you one day, Sasuke-kun!"

"Now that's going a bit too far," Sasuke said petulantly, standing up and dusting his shorts. But he gave her a small smile. "I'll be waiting for that."

She watched him walk away, like she did about a year ago. She smiled and nodded. That day would definitely come.

Ino came looking for her and was frantic when she found Sakura bruised, but her timid friend chastised her and lied about being bullied and rescued; Ino never left her alone for a second after that, until she was sure Sakura could handle herself. After a night of thinking, Sakura came to a decision and announced to all her friends the next morning,

"You guys! I found someone that I really like!"

I do wonder if he remembers those things.
For Uchiha Sasuke, those little memories anchored him to his past.
He was nearly five, and it was a hot June afternoon. Itachi, who had the day off, insisted that they both take time to visit the new ice cream shop that had opened at the corner of some street. His brother was infamous amongst the clan members for his love for sweets, and was known to skip practice to buy sweets from this or that store. He sometimes snuck dango into his room, a habit their mother disapproved of. It was a mundane, yet amusing side of the Uchiha genius.

In contrary with his elder brother, Sasuke didn't like sweets all that much. He wasn't opposed to the idea of getting ice cream especially in that heat, but he preferred cold tomatoes than a creamy-cold confection. Most people found this strange, but his mother attributed his healthy goody looks to this odd favorite.

Itachi bough him a chocolate ice cream cone. While he haggled with the counter girl for three scoops on his cone instead of just two, Sasuke watched the ice cream melt – he didn't fancy taking lick of it yet. It looked too sweet. He decided that he didn't like ice cream after all.


Sasuke turned to see a pink-haired girl staring in shock at the chocolate ice cream cone she had been holding, now upside down on the floor. He watched her lip tremble – it looked as if her reward for carrying that big grocery bag beside her had just been wasted.

A stab of pity poked at his chest, and he realized that the strawberry-haired girl probably needed, or else wanted, the ice cream that was slowly melting in his hand, more than he did. He was eager to get rid of it, anyway. He slid off the seat Itachi had put him in and strode right up to the teary-eyed little girl.

Her head was bowed, but when she raised it to look straight at him, it suddenly struck him how very like open windows her eyes were, like there was nothing to hide. They were soulful and emotional, and it startled him with all the information they seemed to hold. And they looked familiar – an added mystery. "Y-yes?" she hiccupped.

He wasn't the type to dilly-dally. "Here," he offered bluntly, holding out his cone.

The girl stared at the cone. "R-really? I can have a lick?"

"It's yours," Sasuke said, slightly exasperated. If she licked it, would anyone even want it anymore? "Take it before it melts."

He hurriedly transferred the cone's ownership to her, and she quickly licked off the dribbling cream off the cone. She gave him a wet, chocolatey smile. "Thank you," she chirped. "Do you want anything for it?"

"Well, no, I-"

But she was already fumbling around in the grocery bag. "You like cookies?"




"Not even pickled umeboshi?"

"Gross! Who eats that stuff?"

She gave him a glare. "I do!" She shifted the bag again. "Um… I only have lettuce and tomatoes left, so-"

Well, wasn't he a lucky fellow, though. "I'll take the tomatoes," Sasuke piped up immediately. She blinked her great green eyes at him as she stopped licking the chocolate cone.

"You want me to trade tomatoes for ice cream?" she asked, a little incredulous.

"What about it?" Sasuke mumbled, blushing.

"N-nothing!" the girl stuttered. She reached in and gave him the whole bag of tomatoes. 'You can have all you want." She gave him a smile, and his cheeks heated again. She was pretty after all, even if her hair was weirdly pink.

Soon after, he heard her mother laughing at their little trade. Itachi, on the other hand, at once looked bewildered at the fact that his little brother's cold confection had been magically replaced with the vegetables he was now munching with gusto.

She did look familiar, he though afterwards. He just couldn't put his finger on it.

He was six, and it was time for their balance training exam. Everyone had to walk across a wooden balance beam carrying two pails of water hung on the each end of a bamboo pole. It was a standard procedure that everyone needed to pass this test before moving on too the next level.

Uchiha Sasuke didn't just "pass" tests, however – he aced them. Everyone expected him to ace the final exam of the school year, just like he had in the other exams. It wasn't pressure on him at all; he aced tests all the time and there wasn't any reason this one would be any different.

The day before the test, Sasuke waited his turn while the other kids took theirs before him. He was going to blow away all competition, he knew, and it was because of the proud Uchiha blood in his veins. It would never fail him.

"Wow, Haruno-chan's really doing it!"

He looked up and frowned immediately. On the balance beam was his pink-haired classmate, Haruno Sakura, the bookworm of the class, and she was the last person anyone would expect could handle the pails the way she did now. Her balance was perfect – it was like she was already using chakra, like the older kids. She was balancing on the beam with the ease and poise of a grown kunoichi.

Well, Sasuke wasn't about to stand for that. He couldn't let an especially clumsy female beat him on the balance beam. The other kids went to the playground to play, while he was left alone by the balance beam.

To his surprise, as he got ready to cross the beam, he noticed Sakura waiting patiently by the end of the beam. "What're you still doing here?" he asked. "Aren't you going to play with your friends?"

Sakura smiled sheepishly. "I'm waiting for my next turn so I can practice again. I'm not very good at it. Besides," she added, "I don't have any friends, so…"

She's not very good at it? Sasuke thought incredulously. She can beat even me!

"We-ell," he said out loud, "everyone says you're good. But I'm better, just watch."

"Of course you are, Sasuke-kun," she conceded meekly.

He got up on the balance beam with a cockiness to match his prideful Uchiha features. Sakura watched him from about a meter away. He walked across the beam as quickly as he could, to show this puny girl that he could, in fact, be better than her. Especially her.

He faltered a bit midway through the beam, but he managed to right himself. He took a big breath for another try. He walked as deliberately as he could, but keeping his old pace.

It happened quickly. He missed the next step, wobbled, and promptly fell off the beam, spilling an entire bucket of water at his only spectator.

The sound of the splashing of the water alerted the other kids to their position. Sasuke turned red – once the other kids came over, his reputation of being flawless in terms of ninja skill would be down the drain. They'd probably tease him for weeks about falling from the balance beam and spilling water on someone – that someone being the best at the balance beam, no less. They'd probably think he sabotaged her chances by dumping cold water all over her and give her the flu.

"Are you guys okay?"

"Why're you all wet, Haruno-chan?"

"What happened, Sasuke-kun, Haruno-chan?"

Here it comes, Sasuke thought miserably. She'll probably tell them how horribly I failed.

"Well… umm… Sasuke-kun…" Sakura began. "He… I mean, I… I thought it's terribly hot today, so I dumped the entire pail on my head! Ahahaha! I guess it was a stupid thing to do, huh?"

"It really is," one of the other kids said as everyone laughed with her. "What did you eat to make you do something like that?"

"I told you," Sakura lied indignantly, "I was hot!"

It was an amazing and downright guilt-triggering thing to have someone lie for you to save your face, without any prompting. And that was what Sakura did for him, at the expense of her own dignity. What did he do to deserve something like that? He'd even tried to put her down!

Moments later, a couple of teachers dried Sakura out while Sasuke watched from the balance beam. It was a strange feeling to have someone other than his brother watch his back, and he blushed at the fact that it was a girl with pink hair and really pretty green eyes.

He would probably have to repay the favor someday.

He was eight, and the clan was gone.

He had refused to eat or sleep for the past few days, because he had no appetite, and sleep only brought nightmares. All he could do was stare into the lake and marvel at how much he looked like the person he detested more than anyone in the entire universe.

The past week had been a whirlwind of emotions, and when it ended, he ended up physically, emotionally, and mentally spent. His eyes became hollow and empty as he stared into the cold water of the lake. There was only blackness in the lake, far beyond the reaches of sunlight.

He knew he would have to let go of all he had ever known, if he was ever going to chase his brother down. His pride at being the best, just like his brother, would have to become his drive to be stronger than his brother. His amusement with that Uzumaki kid trying to surpass him would have to be replaced by utter concentration on the ninja arts and that alone. His small crush on one Haruno-chan would have to dissipate into pure passion for revenge.

That was the only thing that mattered then.

He stared into the lake, growing deeper into a vertex of cold black. He could imagine how very like his life it was now – he was letting go of the last dregs of childhood light and plunging into the darkness of adult life, in pursuit of his brother.

That meant no more leisurely walks around the lake. No more ice cream shops or trolling for tomatoes. No more stopping to help girls in distress, whether they were frightened of the horrors of the night, or of the horrors of bullies. No more tripping and falling down. There was no time for mistakes.

No time for mistakes meant no time for mundane little things like those moments he had shared with that one little girl. He had to forget them now and focus on what was set on the grim path of his destiny.

Hate and detest me. Live a hateful life. Run… Run…Cling to life pathetically. And when you have these eyes, then come get me.

A surge of powerful, overwhelming hatred gathered in Sasuke's chest, and on a whim, he leapt off the dock and plunged into the dark waters of the great black lake.

As he sank deeper into the water, he could feel himself going farther and farther from the warmth of the light. He could feel all the worldly, childhood inhibitions being stripped from him by the cold water, washing him until he was all but blackness.

Niisan… I don't care how deep I have to go into this darkness – I will do it in order to kill you. I will do whatever it takes to get that power!

That was it – his final resolve. He closed his eyes.

His eyes snapped open again when he heard a splash from where he had just been.

That light…

There was light trying to reach him, trying to grasp him from the depths of the dark lake. It was reaching frantically at him, desperately clawing at his wrist and pulling him up. Startled, he couldn't do anything but let that light drag him to the surface.

He broke the water's surface with one Haruno Sakura.

They dragged themselves from the lake to the banks, breathing heavily after that dip into the lake. Sasuke stared at the little kunoichi, her pink hair and clothes waterlogged, and her eyes swimming – whether from lake water or from tears, he didn't really know.

"What were you thinking?" she panted, her expression anguished. She shivered as a cold wind passed. "Y-you could've drowned! You could've died! I… I…" Tears welled up her eyes anew, and without warning, she had thrown herself at him with a desperate hug. Her warmth seeped in to him through their wet clothes. "How can I protect you if you do this kind of thing?!"

She cried horrendously loud against him, as if all the tears that he should've kept weeping was flooding out of her. She wailed and didn't let go of him, and he didn't push her away. He didn't want to believe it, but this was the last comfort that he didn't want going away just yet. Not just yet.

"Sakura…" he mumbled, letting his chin fall on her shoulder. "You don't have to protect me."

"Why not!?" she cried hysterically. "You're… you're alone now, aren't you? I need to… someone needs to… you need someone to be with you and take care of you! I'll – I'll come over everyday and make sure you get food and stuff, and… and… just let me do something for you, please?"

It was enough to know that she would never change. "I don't want to explain it. I have to be alone with this. You wouldn't understand."

This was the ultimatum, and Sakura knew that he would be keeping his distance from then on, just like always, and he would be pushing her away just like every other girl who hankered after him. She would have to become just another girl to him. She would never understand if he told her – he had lost the luxury of innocence far earlier than most of his peers, whereas she would keep hers for years to come.

He let her cry against him until she fell asleep in exhaustion. Someone would find them later on – Sakura would be brought home and would wake up in her own bed, while Sasuke would be placed under the Hokage's watch for a while. But sitting by her sleeping form would be the last memory he would have of their little moments of connection.

It would have to do till he was done.

Why do these things have to come back at the most critical of times, dammit?
It was the little memories that would matter in the long run, because those little memories would become building blocks of something bigger.
AN: Well, this has certainly been a strange combination. I've never written fluff that ended in angst before. Yet another perfect specimen of "flungst." Waaah. But I did fulfill my chibi!SasuSaku fantasies, because chibi!SasuSaku is nonexistent in canon. I made these little moments with the thought of them being inserted in canon.

Wah. One-shots in one-shots. I've definitely gone lazier.