The door of Sasuke's apartment slammed shut with a loud crack. The sound surprised the dark haired ninja, but didn't phase his pace as he sought his room. He told himself that he was tired from training, and as a result of that, not keeping his strength in check. The old woman living in the apartment under him probably heard him, and Sasuke was sure that if anyone else had been living in his apartment, they would have been graced with the sound of a frying pan smacking against the woman's ceiling and harsh instructions to shut the HELL up.
Instead, Sasuke closed his bedroom door undisturbed, only half surprised to hear the harsh sound of a door slamming for the second time that afternoon. He robotically switched on the lights and then fell onto his bed ungracefully with a heavy sigh, knowing that no one would see him if he acted out of character- unless his fangirls were relatives of the Hyuuga clan. He'd chosen the only room in the apartment that lacked windows for his bedroom for just that reason.
He couldn't explain why he was angry. Yes, he was normally melancholy for no apparent reason (that being something he was not only aware of, but prided himself on), but normally when he was left alone and replayed the day's events in his mind, he could pick out details that would help him justify his annoyance with the rest of the world. Girl wouldn't leave me alone... Itachi murdered the clan... Naruto wouldn't shut up...
At the last reason Sasuke felt a clench in his chest, though he knew that really there was nothing in his chest that would clench and that the sensation was only a figment of his imagination. Emotion in an Uchiha? Riiiight...
Draping an arm over his eyes, Sasuke's hearing picked up only to take in the soundlessness of his empty apartment. He'd been in the same apartment since he was eight years old. When he first moved in, concerned "friends of the family" had repeatedly complained that he should have moved into another family's house, or as he grew older, taken a roommate. The latter complaint had stopped coming after Sasuke was placed on the same team as the only other family-less ninja in Konoha of his age group. He secretly suspected that his self-proclaimed guardians worried that he would put two and two together and ask Naruto to move in with him.
The idea in itself proved just how close Sasuke was to his "concerned friends."
The clench in Sasuke's chest happened again.
Rolling onto his side, Sasuke kept his arm pressed firmly over his eyelids and tried to force himself into falling asleep early. A task that would have been easier if Naruto's mind hadn't been wandering during training, rendering him all but useless as a sparring partner. Twice, Sasuke had considered trading the blonde for a pine tree. At least if he hit the tree hard enough there was a chance that it would drop pinecones over him in defense. He told himself that he had too much energy left over to sleep, contradictin his earlier excuse of being too tired to keep his strength in check. He couldn't get the dobe riled up enough to spar on their own time either, or even enter a bickering match.
But he couldn't really blame the dobe, could he? After all...he was a nuisance in his happy-go-lucky state of mind too. Loud, insulting, obnoxious, hopeful, encouraging...
The imaginative part of Sasuke's mind really must have been hit at some point during the day, because it was trying to convince him that that clenching sensation was back again.
Okay. Since the dobe seemed to be triggering his brain's nonfunctioning, he'd let him off the hook. No blaming Naruto. Got it. Luckily, Sasuke had one other person that he could easily point his finger at (mentally).
When Sasuke had gone to the bridge where his team met, the Hyuuga had been sitting there, cross-legged on the planks with his back rigid against the railing. Sasuke's approach had been met with a brief shifting of pale eyes, just enough attention to register who he was, and then Sasuke was promptly forgotten. Sasuke hadn't said anything. Any conversation that could have happened between Konoha's two most stoic ninja would have consisted of far too many 'hns' for an average person to understand. Sasuke had remained standing, leaning back with his elbows resting on the railing beside Neji and waited for the arrival of the other members of his team.
Sakura had arrived second, after fifteen minutes of silence between the former Number One Rookies. The pink haired girl strolled languidly toward the bridge, having given up trying to find a point in rushing to their meeting place if their instructor wasn't even going to show up himself until hours after the designated time. When she reached the boys she let out a good natured "Ohayo, Sasuke-kun!" then paused as her eyes noticed a smooth crown of black hair near Sasuke's hip and followed it down to the form of the Hyuuga. She had glanced up to try giving Sasuke a confused looked, but to no avail. Sasuke had already turned his head to one side, anticipating Naruto's head to appear in the distance next. He heard Sakura's voice when she offered Neji a greeting, slightly less friendly than the one given the Uchiha.
She was rewarded with a disinterested 'Hn.'
A moment of silence went by, made less comfortable by the appearance of the pink haired girl. The two silent ninja alone were alright, they could easily forget one another. But when a normal, talkative girl was added into the mix, the lack of sound became tense. All three present on the bridge knew that Sakura, though very gifted in her teenager-girl-chatterbox powers, was nowhere near energetic enough in her conversations to draw in the two dark-haired boys. They needed someone jumpier than her, someone with a horribly loud voice and unshatterable enthusiasm in whatever topic they chose to rattle on about. Like Lee...or Naruto.
"Ne, Neji," Sakura made an effort at talking anyway, knowing that it would fail. She wasn't stupid, just hopeful. "Shouldn't you be with your team?"
That's when Sasuke's day was ruined. The moment Neji's disinterested answer faded and his eyes fell onto a golden haired, grinning form running down the street toward them. The blonde was still sleep-messed, his hair looking unbrushed, and one arm hurriedly trying to push it's way into an orange jacket that he refused to admit was getting too small for him. He was just zipping up the front when he began to slow down in front of his destination. Sasuke might have turned around and walked straight back home, any chance of improving his abilities through competing with his rival that day were shot down...
"Hinata likes you."
...with one blunt statement made by Hyuuga Neji.
Naruto hadn't even had a chance to shout his usual cheerful greeting to Sakura or yell something along the lines of "What the hell are you doing here!" Relationships between the white-eyed ninja and the loudmouthed one had cut off almost completely after bringing Sasuke back to Konoha.
The boy hadn't faltered right away, Sasuke remembered. He was simply silent as he continued walking to stand at the railing next to Sakura. Then he made the realization the colorless glaze was not trained on Sasuke, but him. On Naruto. Then the smile shrank a bit, as two things became clear. One, that Neji was finished speaking. And the other that no, he was not going to blink.
Naruto made his brilliant reply. "Eh?"
A small sound escaped Sakura. Looking at her, Sasuke found the girl wearing a knowing smile that she was barely trying to suppress. Her head was facing forward, keeping the pretense of not watching her teammate's reaction, but her green eyes were straining far to the sides of their sockets in his direction.
Sasuke, for his part, did a much better job of not looking like he was eavesdropping. The Uchiha was used to hearing the statement the Hyuuga had uttered, and so when hearing it directed towards another, he didn't so much as flinch. What had been hard was not coldly say, "I'm not interested," having also grown used to hearing said statement directed at himself. Looking at the boy who had been on the receiving end of the confession, probably for the first time in his life, Sasuke noted that the blonde's reaction was completely different from his own.
Naruto just stared.
There was an almost sound next to Sasuke that was almost a sigh, and then Neji stood up. Sasuke's eyes swept over the space that he had been sitting in, and noted that there was no signs of smeared morning drew on the planks, nor was there any dampness on the ninja's clothing. He wondered for a moment just how long ago the Hyuuga had sat down.
Naruto looked a little scared as the Hyuuga approached him, the kind of scared that a dear shows when it notices a hunter watching it through tall grass with a gun ready to fire. When Neji stopped in front of him, he spoke more slowly so that the blond wouldn't mistake his words. "Hinata likes you."
"Uh...that's nice. I like her too."
Sakura's pressed-together lips broke apart for a moment and a bubbly giggle reached three sets of ears before she clamped her mouth shut again. Naruto looked at her in confusion for a moment.
If Neji was surprised by the blonde's incredible misunderstanding of the word 'like,' Sasuke couldn't tell. The Hyuuga's back was facing him, but he assumed that the other nin wouldn't be surprised. After all, the dobe got his name from being Dead Last in everything.
"That's not what I meant," the emotionless voice said quietly, making it clear that he was only intending for the blonde to listen. Too bad. "Hinata has liked you since before you left the academy. It's been obvious. She's too shy to tell you, and you're too much of an idiot to figure it out for yourself." Naruto's mouth opened, but before any words could come out, Neji added, "Baka."
If Neji was trying to keep the blonde ninja from rejecting or accepting Hinata through the Branch House messenger, he had chosen the right technique to distract him. Naruto reacted on reflex. "I'm not a baka, you asshole!"
Sasuke willed his body to start slightly, jumping on the excuse of hearing the dobe's nickname for him as an excuse to angle his head for a better view of the two standing at the edge of the bridge.
Unfortunately, the white eyed ninja chose this time to take his leave. "I've told you, now I'm done being involved. Acting on this is entirely up to you." He stepped to the side to avoid colliding with Naruto, then strode past him and jumped up into his trees, going to meet with his team, Sasuke guessed.
"HEY!" came from the blonde. "WHAT DO YOU MEANYOU'RE DONE BEING INVOLVED?"
Naruto turned back to the bridge with an adorably confused pout on his face, though Sasuke doubted that Naruto realized he was pouting. He went to the railing and began to lean on it like his teammates, but then let his body sink down lower until he was sitting on the drew-dusted planks. Sakura had the grace to allow the blonde a moment of silent contemplation before squatting down next to him, the knowing smile that she had tried so hard before to hide now evident on her face.
"Ohayo, Naruto!" she said in an unusually cheerful voice. Under normal circumstances the blonde was the one to address her, and the responses to those greetings were usually along the lines of 'Hmm' as the pink-haired girl hung onto Sasuke's arm. On a normal day, Sakura's cheerfully voiced good morning should have made Naruto beam.
Naruto blinked when he heard the girl's voice, seeming to just remember that he was not alone on the bridge. Because of the angle of the blonde's head, when his eyes focus they fell first on to Sasuke, then shifted over to Sakura. Sasuke watched as the blond put on his smile for their female teammate and said "Ohayo, Sakura-chan!" as loudly as ever (making Sakura flinch).
Sakura's answering smile was sweet. Sasuke would have expected the dobe to flinch from its stark difference to the looks of annoyance and polite reserve the she usually bestowed on him. The pink haired girl leaned in towards Naruto, she had been worried that perhaps Naruto would still be upset from Neji's announcement -though honestly, she couldn't understand why. If someone had asked her what she thought Uzumaki Naruto's reaction would be to hearing that someone had an interest in him, she would have bet money that the idiot blonde would leap for joy. Voice dropping down to the soft tone that all women possess for the sake of gossiping, Sakura said, "That's incredible, what Neji said, isn't it?"
Sakura didn't see that behind her a dark pair of eyes narrowed.
Naruto put on his usual goofy grin and vigorously nodded. "Heh heh hee, never would have thought he'd pull a prank like that, ne?"
"What do you mean, Naruto? Prank...oh." The pink haired girl's smile changed to one that all self-respecting women having mastered the gossiping voice would know. The grin of a matchmaker. "Naruto-kun! Why would Neji pull a prank on you?"
"Nah, Naruto!" behind Sakura, Sasuke flinched at hearing the excited voice that the girl normally used when addressing him used on the blonde. "I think Hinata actually like you! She's always so nice to you-"
"She's nice to everyone!"
"Did she offer to let anyone else copy her paper during the Churrin Exams?"
Naruto, in his strangely frantic quest to prove that Sakura was wrong and that Neji was just trying to make a fool of him, failed to ask how Sakura could have possibly known that Hinata had offered to help through the written part of the exams.
"Do you not like Hinata?" Sakura sweetly asked after a pause. She had at least had the grace to give the blonde haired dobe another chance to think before continuing on with her meddling, right where Neji had left off.
"Uh...heheh, well..." a tanned hand came up to scratch at where the hitai-ate was tie at the back of his head. A pink-haired head leaned in intimidating close so not to miss her teammate's answer, even if it came out in a mumble. And in the pale head of the dark haired boy, eyes darted in their direction.
"I guess she's...kinda..."
Inner Sakura was on the edge of a victory dance. Naruto Dating Hinata meant that there was no Naruto Asking Sakura Out, which meant No Naruto Getting In The Way Of Sakura Dating Sasuke. SCORE!
DAMNIT!Inner Sakura shrieked when the adorably naive boy she had been pressure-questioning, shot up to shout "YOU'RE LATE!" Inwardly she wanted to bite the bridge railing in two at her teacher's sudden appearance. Of all days to be early, she thought. However, she couldn't let Naruto's love life interfere with her normal behavior-Sasuke-kun might get suspicious! So, after the pathetic excuse was offered the usual two voices rang out the routine "LIAR!"
From then on the day seemed to have returned to normal. There were only minor missions lined up for their team. Brush the horses at this man's ranch, prune this woman's garden, find this lady's damn, blasted cat...
By lunch time Sasuke had hardly broken a sweat while his two teammates were all but panting. Sakura because of the intense heat of the late spring day, and Naruto because of his constant, half hearted attempts to "beat" Sasuke in their missions.
Normal as could be expected.
When they were dismissed Sakura came to Sasuke with her usual question, would he like to have lunch with her? And was answered coolly with the usual no. Absently as he walked away, his ears listened for Naruto to jump in with "I'LL HAVE LUNCH WITH YOU, SAKURA-CHAN!" and the pink haired girl's rejection...
...but it didn't come.
The lack of the shout, the shriek, and the whine, made the Uchiha stop in mid stride in the hallway of the Hokage building where their mission reports were turned in. Casually, he turned around to see if perhaps his dreams had finally come true and a cold, bottomless pit had opened up and swallowed his team without warning. Instead of seeing (what he told himself was) such a pleasing sight, the Uchiha's black gaze revealed that the dobe had hung back in the doorway, one hand grasping onto Sakura's elbow. Even more unnaturally, he saw that not only was Sakura not protesting to the contact, but actually had her head leaning towards the blonde's as it had been earlier that day. For once, Naruto was speaking without yelling, and Sakura's face was caught in a thoughtful expression rather than a scowl.
There was only one explanation for this. Hunter nins. Clearly, at some point during the day, Orochimaru had switched his two teammates with scouts using a henge to disguise themselves and lower him into a trap with their out of character acts. Perhaps Neji had been kidnapped too...
Sasuke shook his head to clear away that train of thought. It was ridiculous, Orochimaru would have developed a plan that involved more bloodshed and far more complications than that. Taking a few steps closer to his team, Sasuke tried to think of another reason for Sakura and Naruto to be standing so close together. having been standing with his face to Sakura's back that morning, the Uchiha had missed the pink haired girl's doomsday matchmaker expression, and thus would not have recognized it when it flashed onto the girl's face for the second time that day.
There was no way that Sakura had accepted the dobe's offer. Maybe there was something he had forgotten about their last mission? No, wait, he's an Uchiha, and for him to have forgotten would mean that Hell had finally frozen over, and that just wouldn't work with the scortchingly hot day...
"...I'm not sure, I really don't talk to any of them that often." Sasuke could hear Sakura say softly as he neared. "I'm sorry, Naruto."
"Aw, come on Sakura! You gotta know where they eat!" the blonde ninja next to her pleaded, a little less quietly than his teammate.
"I don't know..." Sakura said. A frown mixed in with her before mention expression. "I guess...Ino-pig once told me that she hears dogs barking in the ally behind her family's shop in the afternoons..."
"What does that have to do with Hinata's team!" The blond whined loudly, breaking farther into his normal tones.
Sasuke decided this was the place in the conversation to make his presence known with his favorite word... "Dobe."
Sakura looked up and instantly her face twisted into an overly-sweet smile. Naruto spun around ungracefully and shouted out, "WHAT DO YOU KNOW, YOU BASTARD!"
Sasuke stuffed his hands into his pockets, making a point of not responding to the name while he spoke, "Hinata and Kiba are on the same team. Kiba always has his dog with him. Since most restaurants don't allow pets, their team wouldn't eat lunch inside, instead they would find someplace like the ally outside Ino's shop."
"Eh? Were you listening to us, asshole?"
Naruto's head suddenly fell forward as Sakura's fist flew into the back of it. "Naruto! Don't insult Sasuke-kun! He just told you were to find Hinata!"
At the sound of the Hyuuga girl's name, Naruto straightened. Sasuke would have bet his mansion on the blonde whining about being hit for no reason at all, but it would seem that today wasn't fitting in with their team's usual mannerisms. Naruto dusted himself off a bit, though he had managed to save his balance before Sakura's blow made him hit the ground, and took off for the roof tops through an open hallway window.
Sasuke frowned a little. Naruto wasn't supposed to actually listen to Sakura...
The blonde boy waved over his shoulder as he leapt out of sight, likely for the pink haired girl, Sasuke had thought.
Sakura ignored the gesture and shot Sasuke a loving look that often signaled that she was going to ask him out again, and Sasuke, with an inward sigh of relief, thought that the day had finally reached it's end of weirdness.
Then, just so Kami could tease him a bit...
"Thanks, Sasuke!" Naruto's voice was distant, but the loudmouth ninja managed to be heard perfectly.
Okay...maybe the day WASN'T done with being weird just yet. Sasuke's attention immediately turned to his female teammate. She was still giving him that look, the one he should have been used to by now after having received it everyday since the moment he hit puberty. He thought fleetingly of the window, but then noted that to get to it he would have to run past the girl in front of him and thought better of it. Sakura was just within an arm's reach of him when Sasuke spun around and dashed for the stairs. It would just be a perfect ending for the weird day that Neji had started that morning, if he did something stupid. Like accepting Sakura's offer.
Ignoring the sound of Sakura calling his name and asking what was wrong, Sasuke quickly decided that he needed to get home. Fast. Before he could be attacked by whatever had driven Neji to the bridge and Naruto to (gulp) politeness.
Hello! Because of multiple suggestions, I finally reposted this chapter after going over it. I think I caught all the spelling mistakes, but then again… Hey, look! I fixed that horrible "Uchiaha" mistake! And Naruto's last name! And even the hitia-ate one that no one complained about in the reviews! I'll try to look over all the other chapter and repost them as soon as possible, and for the people who reviewed only this chapter…you'll be happy to know that I found a beta by chapter five.
Anyway, for anyone who reads this chapter after I reposted: Hello! I hope you liked this, and will consider reviewing. Criticism, praise, and suggestions are all appreciated. And of course, corrections. The story's quality kind of changes as I go on with chapters.