Well, you know me. Work on a fic, leave it, work on another fic, then return to a different fandom, lather, rinse, repeat. In other words, I am currently residing in the Naruto fandom again (because boy, did the plot bunnies bite hard on this one) and although I may take occasional trips into the realms of Get Backers or Yu Yu Hakusho, I will always return to write more scary fics for you all!

…Yeah, you're all just screaming in terror now, aren't you? Anyway, this fic is inspired and dedicated to MT-san, who never fails to make me grin.

You know the drill. If I owned Naruto, Sasame would be tortured by Ibiki and Anko.

Their mission had been wildly successful. Team 7 had delivered the renowned painter to his small village with nary a mishap and was now headed back; tired, hungry, and a bit wet from a recent downpour which had the three youngsters in sinking moods. To make matters worse, the torrential rainfall had delayed them substantially and it looked like they would be spending another night outside.

However, Naruto was not one to be despondent for long, so he quickly recovered and began to happily look forward to a nice, steaming bowl of ramen…or two…or three. Kakashi led the motley group, his nose buried deep into his book, as usual. Sasuke kept an eye out for any approaching danger, since the others seemed to be preoccupied by trivial matters. So naturally, it would make sense that he would be the one to first notice the startled jolt of pain ripple across Sakura's face before a soft hiss of "Oh!" escaped and she fanned her hands over her abdomen.

Sasuke remained silent, wondering if this was another attempt to flirt with him or if she'd actually had a reason to whimper like that. Naruto was too gullible to be wary and reached her side in a heartbeat. "Sakura-chan, what's the matter?"

The pink-haired girl looked just as confused as he did, and Sasuke's doubt slipped down another notch. "I-I don't know…there was this TWINGE--" She cut herself off with another low cry, doubling over as her breath emerged as a sharp gasp. "U-um…excuse me!" Brushing off Naruto's attempts to steady her, she disappeared into a large clump of bushes.

They waited. And waited. And waited some more. If there was a wait song, Sasuke most likely would have sung it--to himself, of course. He managed to keep himself from tapping his foot, but he settled for crossing his arms and looking foreboding instead.

His simmering anger abruptly dissolved, however, when a very pale, trembling Sakura reemerged, her pale green eyes welling up but staunchly refusing to release the tears that gathered there.

Now even Kakashi was concerned. "What's the problem, Sakura?"

The kunoichi gulped, avoiding his eye. "I'm…bleeding…"

"WHERE?" Naruto yelped, frantically searching for injuries while Sasuke performed a discreet check on his own. He couldn't spot anything that was dripping blood, but the tightened expression on her face told him that she was indeed suffering. Perhaps the bleeding was internal? But then how…

"Urrrh!" Sakura suddenly winced andwent down on one knee, then slowly slumped over until she was curled in a tight ball on the ground.

"Sakura-chan!" Naruto screeched her name and Sasuke hesitantly knelt to check her vital signs, Kakashi mentally kicked himself for not having been better prepared for this day. Certain actions had to be taken.

"Sasuke, Naruto, stay here with Sakura. I'm going to get…supplies." And, just like that, he was gone, in the fashion that all Jounins seemed to favor: mysterious swirls of smoke that cloaked their disappearance.

"Huh? Supplies?" The blond looked at his fallen teammate. "But we have bandages…"

Sasuke snorted. "Idiot, if she's bleeding internally, bandages aren't going to help."

"Then what are we supposed to do, huh?" Naruto angrily retorted. "Are you saying we can't do anything to help Sakura-chan?" The poor boy was headed straight into a state of frenetic hysteria.

Sasuke didn't want to admit that he actually had no idea what to do. Should they just sit there or try to figure out what the hell was plaguing her? Despite his pride in his kekkei genkai, he was forced to concede that Neji or Hinata's Byakugan would be more helpful in pinpointing the problem.

He was jarred out of his thoughts when Sakura groaned again, blindly reaching up with a wavering hand. Without realizing it until he had completed the action, he automatically caught hold of it--and had to suppress a flinch. This was…awkward, to say the least, and it wasn't over yet. Sporadically, she would squeeze his hand with such desperate strength that it was numb only after one or two grips. For the sake of his wailing fingers, Sasuke was about to tug free…but then he caught a glimpse of her face, now stained with tears.

It took just that one look and he found himself recalling another incident where the roles had been reversed. It had been him on his knees, gasping and moaning with a feverish intensity, while one hand grasped that of his kunoichi teammate with startling tenacity…Sakura's panicked face swam through a crimson mist of excruciating pain before she had wrapped her arms around him and cradled him protectively against her chest…the burning agony of the mark left on his neck and the anguished screams that he couldn't choke down pouring from his lips while her teary voice begged him to hold on…

Sasuke owed her for that, and that alone kept him from budging as he squeezed her hand in reply.

"It…hurts!" Sakura whimpered, tears slowly trailing down her pale face. "It hurts, Sasuke-kun…"

"Aa." Well geez, what else could he possibly say? "I feel your pain?" No…because he didn't and there was no point in lying about it. "You poor baby, tell Sasuke-kun all about it?" Hell no. He was no advice columnist or counselor and he'd fight in a pink tutu and declare Gai his idol before he'd utter something like that.

Naruto held Sakura's other hand, looking rather anxious and not at all like himself. "Kakashi-sensei better get back soon…"

Meanwhile, somewhere obscure…

Kakashi had the best intentions. Really, he did.

But his desire for Jiraiya's latest novel was stronger.

And besides, it was on sale. Definitely fate.

Jingle. "Welcome! How may I help you?"

"Yes, that book…"

Back to the darlings…

"Don't hope for it. You know how he is."

As night fell and the three were bathed in darkness, Kakashi had still not returned with the "supplies" and Sakura's mysterious condition hadn't improved. Despite his efforts, Naruto had eventually dropped off and now lay snoring on the ground.

Remembering how his mother used to calm him when he was a child (and stubbornly locking away the memories of her lying bloodied on the floor), Sasuke was hesitantly circling his palm on Sakura's back as she rested her head on his thighs and praying to any gods available that no one would see him.


She's still awake? He kept silent, figuring she had more to say. He was right.

"I-I'm sorry…"

"Don't apologize for things that aren't your fault. You're just reacting to the pain."

Neither one said anything more.

Eventually, Sakura's grip on his hand loosened and she fell into a restless sleep. Sasuke looked her over, then cautiously moved her so that he could settle down and curve himself around her back. It couldn't be healthy for her if she was cold, right? Kakashi wouldn't be pleased if she was worse than when he had left her.

Sasuke closed his eyes briefly, intending only to rest them so he could keep watch, but sleep had different plans and, before he knew it, he was lost in a slumber that didn't include (for once) Itachi, his family, Orochimaru, or Lee and Gai embracing.

"Sakura…Sakura, wake up."

A hand was gently shaking her shoulder and Sakura blearily opened her eyes to see who it belonged to.

Kakashi crouched in front of her, clutching a paper sack. "I have the generic cramp pills and the napkins," he informed her in a hushed whisper. "Sorry I took so long…there was a woman giving birth in the middle of the road--"

"LIAR!" Naruto shouted suddenly. When they both looked in his direction, his eyes were still closed and he rolled over with a moan of "There were only four bowls of ramen…"

"What would I need napkins for?" Sakura inquired sleepily, blinking. The crippling pain in her abdomen had subsided to a dull, steady ache and she was comfortably warm.

Despite the mask covering his nose and mouth, Kakashi still managed to look VERY discomfited. "You know…" he said awkwardly. "For THAT. I hope I got the right size."

Something wasn't registering. Napkins came in SIZES?

The Jounin sighed. "Anyway, if Sasuke will let you go, you can…go try them on."

"…Huh?" It was only then that she realized that someone was breathing slowly and evenly on her neck and that same person had one arm slung over her shoulders, which trapped her quite efficiently.

Her heart skipped a beat when she cautiously turned over and discovered the person was Sasuke-- a recumbent Sasuke who had never looked so peaceful as in that early morning moment.

Sasuke-kun was sleeping with me? She thought dazedly, as Inner Sakura cheered victoriously. And he and Naruto held my hands during that time…

Sakura gazed affectionately at her sleeping teammates, then took the time to ease out of Sasuke's loose hold and accepted the bag from her teacher. One quick peek inside and she turned the color of her shirt--very, VERY red. Come to think of it, hadn't her mother mentioned this before? She'd forgotten until now…

"Oh…you mean…THOSE kind of napkins…"

Kakashi nodded. Still blushing furiously, the kunoichi went to make use of them.

Silence ensued, punctuated by a few sleepy bird chirps. Kakashi idly flipped a page of his newest book.

"Sasuke, you can stop pretending to be asleep now."

Sasuke chose not to answer--just silently and sullenly cursed him. How dare that perverted old man think he was faking sleep! He was just at ease with his arm around Sakura, that was all. It had been for her protection while she slept. And besides, if she'd known he'd been awake, she would have gotten the wrong idea.

…Kakashi was just jealous of his coolness. That must be it.

When Sakura finished brushing her short hair, she was surprised to see Sasuke nearby, gazing at her intently. "Sasuke-kun?"

"You're fine now." More of a statement than a question of concern, but he was still learning the nuances of actually being social.

"Yes…" A tinge of pink appeared on her cheeks. "Thank you…for everything."

Sasuke didn't speak for a few minutes, idly studying the peeling bark on a nearby tree. Then he turned to look at her fully.

"I know how you felt back then."

With that cryptic message, he sauntered back to the others as Sakura stared confusedly at his retreating back with the pink slowly darkening to a deep, deep red.

Sasuke hadn't gone far when she caught up to him. He raised an eyebrow, but neither encouraged or discouraged her to go. So she stayed.

"So what was wrong with Sakura-chan?" Naruto was up and pestering the older Sharingan user as they approached. "How'd you fix her bleeding? Was it really internal? Is she going to be all right now? And what's a sanitary napkin?"

Kakashi sighed audibly. "Naruto, I think it's time we had a little chat…"

Sasuke inexorably got the chills.


I'm horrible. I'm so horrible. Poor Sasuke. Feel free to gape and throw things. Just a few notes before I wrap this up.

1. Sakura has probably heard about "That Time of Month", but then again, you never know. She IS only twelve in this. And besides, it made it more interesting because Sakura had no idea what was going on either.

2. This takes place after the Chuunin exam, but before the "Hey-Let's-Stick-Sasuke-in-a-Bucket" arc.

3. If you have never had "That Time", be thankful. All of what Sakura went through was exactly what I went through (except she never vomited) and probably what a lot of girls did (or do) too.

4. I'm CONSIDERING writing a sequel that focuses on the Rookie 9, Gai's team and maybe Gaara's team and how they handle…err…the aspects of puberty. Can I get some feedback on that?

5. If you are scarred for life…eat chocolate. Reviews are appreciated, please and thank you!