AN - This story is set with the rookie nine around 14 years old and it's AU in the sense that Sasuke never left Konoha. No spoilers, I think. And I'm sorry if Sasuke is slightly OOC. I was banking on extra years with Naruto making him loosen up a bit. I didn't mean for it to get this long, but... Oh well! Hope you like it, and please review and tell me what you think!

Disclaimer - I don't own Naruto, I promise.

Sasuke hated his fangirls. He hated the way they chased him around, they way they yelled random confessions of their undying love, and the way they fought over what would never belong to them. It was a disgrace, for them to be cat fighting and chasing him when they could be training.

But the morning when Sakura ran past him without a glance and tackled Naruto with a large hug, something inside of him jerked.

"Sakura-chan!" Naruto bellowed in his loud way, swaying on the spot to keep his balance. "Um... are you okay?"

Her large emerald eyes looked to him and glowed. Sasuke's normal scowl became deeper.

"Of coarse! I'm just... I dunno... In a really great mood!" She continued to cling to him, her smile wide.

"But, why are you hugging me?"

Despite himself, Sasuke couldn't help but wonder if Naruto had even heard of the word 'tact'.

Sakura pulled back and gave him a playful frown, raising a thin eyebrow. "Why? Don't you want a hug?"

Suddenly a bright expression crossed Naruto's face. "Of coarse! Wow, it took you a long time to finally drop that Sasuke bastard! He's not worth your love, Sakura-chan!" Naruto said valiantly as he puffed his chest out and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

Sasuke was waiting for the pink haired kunoichi's fist to collide with Naruto's skull. Inside he was smirking, hoping that she deposited him in the river that flowed beneath the bridge. He waited a few seconds. Nothing was happening. What the hell?

Instead, a deep blushed crossed her face. "Well... Orange was always my favorite color," she giggled, scooting closer to Naruto's bright jacket.

...Huh? Sasuke thought. Where did this come from? Did I do something that made Naruto look better than me? But... but I should be thankful for this, he decided. It just means there's one less fangirl to chase me around.

He crossed his arms resolutely as he watched Sakura and Naruto converse quietly, forgetting his existence completely.

Good, this gives me more time to think of killing Itachi... He leaned against the railing and imagined snapping Itachi's neck and poking his eyes out with a kunai. But at random intervals, Itachi's corpse would turn into Naruto and Sakura snuggling in front of a campfire. Or maybe Naruto and Sakura at the Ichiraiku, with her gazing at him as he plowed though his seventh bowl of miso ramen. Sometimes it was Sakura wearing Naruto's coat, siting on the Hokage monument.

He cursed himself and tried harder to focus on the important things in life, which became increasingly difficult as Sakura's giggles filled the air.

This is going to be a long day... Sasuke thought irritably.

Behind a tree near Team 7's bridge, Ino snickered happily. "Perfect," she muttered as she carefully shook the small vile in her hand. "Without Sakura as competition, Sasuke will finally be able to fully realize his love for me! Yay!"

One of her companions rolled his eyes as he started scooting away from the vivacious blond. "Women are so troublesome..."

Her other companion munched quietly on a bag of chips. "Are you sure this is a good idea, Ino?"

She turned and glared at Chouji with fire in her bright blue eyes. "Of coarse, you moron! How could it not work?"

"Well..." Shikamaru muttered, but decided for his health that it was better to keep his thoughts to himself.

"Yo," a certain silver haired jounin announced as he arrived to his team's meeting spot with a puff of smoke. "Sorry I'm late, but I spilt coffee on my book and I had to go buy a new one."

There was no response.

Kakashi raised his visible eye brow at the scene before him. Naruto and Sakura were leaning against a rail, hand in hand, whispering closely with each other. Sasuke was on the other side sitting on the rail, glaring at the couple.

"Ahh..." Kakashi said as he took up the space between the young ninjas. "I see the group dynamic has... shifted slightly." Sakura giggled in response, causing Naruto to blush.

Kakashi's eye rested on Sasuke for a moment too long, causing Sasuke's glare to change recipients. Why is he starring as me? Does he think I care or something? Well, he's wrong! Sakura and Naruto can go off and get married for all I care! Suddenly the image of bright pink hair and snow white fabric approached his mind. Arg! I don't care!

Kakashi had an all knowing look in his eye, which cause the raven haired boy to become even more irate. "I hope this sudden change won't interfere with our mission?"

"Of coarse not, Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto saluted, causing Sakura to give him a soft smile.

A smile Sasuke recognized as the one she gave him everyday. Or the one she used to give him, anyway.

"Good! Then let me tell you what were going to be up to today," the happy jounin said as he clapped his hands together. Sasuke could practically hear the wheels in his head turning. "We're going to be... Picking corn!"

Despite the shifting feeling within the genin, all three of them face faulted and fell to the ground.

"Are you kidding, Kakashi-sensei?" Sakura squealed as Naruto helped her up.

"Nope! Meet me at the large farm just outside the west gate in half an hour!" In another puff of smoke, he was gone.

"Corn..." Sasuke mumble darkly. Instead of picking corn, I could be training!

"We'll just have to do our best to get done! Hey, if we finish early, you wanna go to Ichiraiku, Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked.

She giggled and locked arms with him. "That's one of the many things I love about you Naruto-kun! You're so sweet and innocent!" Sakura cooed as she poked his cheek gently with a polished finger nail. He grinned and started pulling her away. "Sasuke, are you coming or not?" she called absently over her shoulder as they disappeared around a bend.

He stood for a moment, thinking about what Sakura has said. She loves him because he's sweet and innocent? Well, he's definitely got me beaten there. Sasuke started begrudgingly following them by Sakura's loud giggles. But I'm stronger, and far better looking. But these aren't recent developments, so why did she start liking Naruto? He had finally caught up and was dragging a couple feet behind them. He watched Sakura's eyes light up at a joke Naruto told her.

Something inside him cracked. No matter how hard he tried to deny it, that sparkle in Sakura's emerald eyes always made him uneasy. Now it made him angry. How dare she look at dead-last like that? What's made him so special? Sasuke realized what he was thinking and almost fell over. Why... Why am I fussing over Sakura? She's just an annoying girl.

But there's also something different, a little voice said from the back of his mind. She's actually smart. She's not a great fighter and sometimes she gets in the way, but she has her moments. She's loyal and would step in front of a kunai for you. She's done it before. Sakura would do anything to protect the both of you.

His eyes were locked on the back of Sakura's head and her cherry tresses as she snuggled closer to Naruto's shoulder. Yeah, right. Not anymore.

Suddenly the couple stopped. Sasuke glance over their shoulders to see the way blocked by Team 10. Kiba raised an eyebrow at Naruto and Sakura's interlocked arms. Shino did nothing, but that was normal. Hinata's pearly eyes were wide and her face was as red as a beet.

"Yo, Naruto! I see you and Haruno are together, eh?" Kiba said as he nudged Naruto's unoccupied arm.

Naruto grinned and Sakura blushed once again. Sasuke was getting tired of her blushing.

"Naruto-kun, Sasuke and I are on our way to our mission," Sakura told him. Hearing his name without the '-kun' was starting to get on Sasuke's nerves.

"Actually, we need to go meet Kurenai-sensei, too. See ya!" the dog boy called as he started walking away, Shino right behind him. Hinata lingered for a moment with her wide, cloudy eyes coated in pain, then quickly followed her team.

"Hmm, I wonder what was wrong with Hinata-chan?" Naruto wonder out loud as then started walking again.

"Maybe she was just happy for us?" Sakura said. Sasuke rolled his eyes.

Suddenly, a flash of green stopped Team 7 in it's tracks. Before them stood a crying Lee with Tenten and Neji not far behind. "Oh, my darling Sakura-chan! You have blown out the flame of passion beneath our campfire of youth!" Rock Lee made a dramatic pose of despair, accidentally throwing his arm into Tenten's stomach. Neji caught her as she fell back and glared at his exuberant teammate. "What shall I do now, with our love being no more? Where shall I go? Is life even worth living any longer?"

"Oh..." Sakura mumbled, her grip on Naruto's elbow tightening. "I never meant to hurt you Lee, I--"

"It's okay, my darling!" He suddenly shot up and did a flip, his foot narrowly missing Neji's head. "I shall not give up!" Neji's face was filled with rage as Tenten tried to hold him back. "No, I shall win back your heart, dear Sakura-chan!" Lee pointed at an invisible sunset with tears still pouring from his stragely large eyes.

Finally Neji broke free of Tenten's grip and his fist connected with Lee's stomach, knocking him out instantly. Without a word the Hyuuga genius put Lee over his shoulder and continued walking. Tenten sighed and turned to the group with a little bow. "Sorry about that. Sometime's we can't quite control him." Her deep brown eyes examined Naruto and Sakura quickly, a grin appearing across her face. "See you later Sakura-chan, Naruto, Sasuke." She darted after Neji with a smile.

Sasuke started shaking with rage. Even Tenten is happy for them! Damn it, what the hell is wrong with everyone? He finally saw the west gate in the distance.

Good, now I can distract myself with corn! he though angrily, crossing his arms. The way this is bothering me is really pissing me off.

They met with Kakashi and grabbed baskets, plunging into the large field. Sasuke was furiously ripping down ears of corn, sometimes pulling out the entire stalk on accident. "I don't even know why it's still bothering me," he mumbled after about an hour of destorying his section of the corn field. "It's not like I like Sakura. Not as anything more than a teammate, anyway. But why does the fact she like Naruto make me want to rip his arms off and carry Sakura away and--" Suddenly he imagined himself bent over Sakura, running his fingers though her soft pink hair, discovering whether her lips really tasted like cherry... He stopped as a blush made it's way up his face. Why on earth was he thinking like THAT?

"It's all that perverted-sensei's fault, carrying that dirty book around all the time..." he continued muttering, the image of Sakura's large green eyes looking up at him as he lowered his face to hers still playing through his mind.

Of coarse Naruto-kun would pick Sakura-san over me, Hinata though to herself as she watched Kiba and Shino practice taijustu. She's much stronger and more confident than I am...

Shino flipped Kiba over his back. I just hope that she makes him happy... I would never wish sadness on him... Hinata scurried over to Kiba and helped him up while Shino watched.

His happiness over mine...

By the time the sun had set, all the corn had been harvested from the massive field. Naruto had beat Sasuke by nearly 100 ears of corn, but for once Sasuke had no interest in his rivalry. For some reason he felt like he had already lost.

On the way back through town, Naruto made a fatal mistake.

"Sasuke bastard, what the hell's wrong with you today?" the blue eyed ninja asked as he walked, Sakura's hand clasped firmly in him.

Finally, Sasuke snapped. "What the hell is wrong with ME? There's nothing wrong with ME, but there is something wrong damn it!" He marched over and grabbed Sakura by the shoulders. "Why the hell don't you love me anymore? You're driving me crazy!"

She glared back. "You never returned my love, Sasuke! Did you expect me to wait and cry for you forever, never getting anything back? What kind of love is that? At least Naruto cares for me, unlike YOU! All I am to you is annoying! You always ran from me, never even pretending you cared! Why should I keep loving you?"

Ino watched the exchange from afar. "What? He's actually... actually... JEALOUS? Jealous because forehead girl is in love with Naruto? I didn't want him to be jealous! I wanted him to run to me for comfort, damn it!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms up in aggravation.

"Well, this just shows you Ino. You can't win love. You have to earn it." Shikamaru watched her face contort from anger to sadness.

"...I guess you're right..." she replied sadly, taking the sphere-like lid off the blue vile. "And that woman said it would work..."

- Earlier that morning...

"Today's the day I'll win Sasuke-kun's heart!" Ino announced to her team as they made their way to the bench where Team 10 normally met with their sensei.

"And how will you do that?" Shikamaru asked. It's the same thing everyday, he though irritably. She'll say that she'll win Sasuke's heart, I'll ask how, and she'll get angry. Damn, I wish she would give up on him.

And just as he predicted, Ino turned on him. "So, you still don't think I'll win Sasuke?"

"No, I don't," he replied.

Chouji stopped eating his chips and gawked at his best friend. "Are you sure you wanted to say that, Shikamaru?"

"Yeah, I am sure." Shikamaru starred at Ino with a hard glare, for once not thinking before he spoke. "You've been trying for years, but nothing's has worked. He doesn't like you. Get over it. You're pretty and smart, you can find someone else."

Ino was speechless. She looked to the ground and pulled on the hem of her skirt daintly. "Do you... do you really think I'm pretty, Shika-kun?"

Suddenly Shikamaru realized what he said and scoffed. "Well... I guess your cute," he said with a small blush. Chouji munched on his chips with a smile.

"Okay, today is the last day I'll try to get him. If it doesn't happen today... then Sasuke-kun and I will never be together," she said firmly, continuing to march.

Well, that went better than I would have predicted, Shikamaru thought, putting his hands in his pockets as he followed.

"Ah, young lady!" someone called from a shady booth to their left. The three genin stopped and looked, finding and old woman hunched over a small group of bottles. "Are you looking for something to grab the eyes of the boy of your dreams?"

Ino walked over curiously. I swear, Shikamaru thought, she's smart, but she's so gullible.

"How did you know?" she asked with amazement.

"Just a luck hunch," the old woman replied, readjusting her scarf.

Or good hearing.

"I've got the perfect thing for you!" Suddenly a small blue bottle was thrust into Ino's hands. "There's no better way to win a man's heart then a love potion! Just slip this into their drink and instant love! The only way the spell can be broken is if you break the lid to the jar," the old woman pointed a thin finger at the round bubble-like lid.

Ino raised an eyebrow. "I don't want him to love me because of a potion." But then her eyes got big and Shikamaru could practically see the light bulb above her head. "...This will work on girls too, right?"

The old woman raised an eyebrow. "I guess you have some plan to get your man?"

"Yeah! I'll use this on Sakura and make her fall in love with Naruto!" she squealed excitedly.

"Ah, make Sasuke see that Sakura doesn't like him so he'll come running to you! Seems fool proof!" the old woman responded and clapped her wrinkly hands in front of her.

The more she talked, the more Shikamaru thought the woman was a fake. "How did you know Ino wanted Sasuke's attention?"

"Um..." the old woman stuttered. "Whoops! Look at the time! I've got to run!" With that the woman disappeared with a puff of smoke.

Shikamaru watched Ino look hungrily at the blue bottle. "Are you sure you should trust that woman?"

She looked at him angrily. "And why not? She said my plan would work!" And with that Ino charged off to find Sakura before she met with Naruto and Sasuke.

- End flashback

"I guess... Sasuke-kun and I just aren't meant to be..." Ino threw the lid at the tree next to her and it shattered into a million shiny blue pieces.

"Like I said Ino, there's other fish in the sea," Shikamaru said as he looked at the shards of glass sticking out of the grass. She cocked her head and starred at him.

"We'll I think I'll go buy another bag of chips!" Chouji announced suddenly. "I'll see you guys later!" He walked off with a smile, knowing that neither of his friends heard him. "Come on Shikamaru, you can get her..."

Sasuke was furious. "You can't give up on me! If you give up, then there's no one who really matters anymore!" he yelled into her face, letting his heart get the better of him. "If you stop loving me, then I'll go crazy!"

Suddenly, Sakura's expression changed from anger to confusion. She glanced around with her emerald eyes, finding herself in Sasuke's grip. "Um... What's going on, Sasuke-kun?"

He stopped. Sasuke-kun... How much had he wanted to hear that all day? "Sakura... What... Why did you change your mind again?" he asked, tongue tied at her startled expression.

Her eye brows furrowed in confusion. "What do you mean 'again'? In fact, where are we?"

"You don't remember anything about today?" Sasuke asked, his anger ebbing away.

"No... Are you all right, Sasuke-kun?" she asked as she reached out to touch his face, expecting her hand to be knocked away.

To her pleasant surprise, Sasuke allowed her to push his bangs back and run her fingers along his cheek bone. He gave her a soft smile that melted her heart immediately.

"I'll walk you home and explain." He took her hand and led her away from a crushed Naruto.

"Arg! My dear Sakura-chan, in the arms of another!" Lee said though his tears as Team Gai loitered in their clearing after training.

"Ah, young Lee!" Gai sang as he grabbed Lee by the shoulders. "Heartache is just a pothole on the road of youthful bliss! You must pick yourself up and continue on to reach the end! The fire of passion burns within you!" Gai posed and pointed at the actual sunset, causing Lee to burst with even more tears.

"Um... We're going to leave now..." Tenten mumbled as she and Neji slowly backed away from the clearing to give Gai and Lee some 'alone time'.

As they walked along the path back to the village gate, Tenten glanced at Neji and immediately cursed herself for doing so. Well, he's hard not to glance at, she reasoned with herself. I mean, he's tall, handsome, has hair more beautiful than mine, and the Hyuuga eyes... She felt her heart clutch as she looked at his eyes. He was looking back at her.

"Is there something wrong, Tenten?" he questioned.

"Um... no!" she lied. Other than the fact that you're perfect?

"You must be hungry after training all day," Neji concluded. "We'll go eat."

"That's okay Neji, I..." Tenten though again about what Neji just told her. "Did you just ask me out to dinner?" she questioned in a cute, yet tactless manner.

He slightly blushed."You don't have to, I was thinking..."

She smiled and grabbed his hand. "Where do you want to go?"

He smiled back as they emerged into the twilight near the northern Konoha gate, interlocking his fingers in hers.

"Shikamaru?" Ino questioned as they strolled though the forest. "Do you want to look at the stars with me?"

He hadn't been expecting that. Stars... I only watch clouds...

"Please?" she asked as she turned to him.

I could never say no to those eyes... he thought with a shrug. "Sure, why not?"

They subconsciously made their way to Shikamaru's cloud watching hill and sat down.

"Look! There's Ursa Major! And Sagittarius, Aquila, and over there is the Pegasus!" Ino said softly as she pointed each constellation out to Shikamaru.

"I'm impressed. Where did you learn all this?" He sat back to get a better view of the sky, but ended up starring at Ino instead.

Her bright eyes became soft and she sat indian-style, her fingers playing with the grass near his right hand. "When I was young, I would stay up late and watch my father tend to the flowers in the garden. He would always show me a new constellation each night, and I would memorize it and remember where it was in the sky. If I could remember all seven at the end of the week, he would buy me an ice cream sundae."

Shikamaru smiled. Sometimes he prefered this soft, whimsical Ino. "That's really nice."

She looked down to him and he felt his heart leap. "You think so? At the time I thought it was silly, but I like knowing about more than just flowers now."

"You know much more than that. You're pretty smart."

She grinned at him. "I'll take that as a compliment, coming from a genius."

He grinned back.His face lit up with a blush as he felt Ino's fingers wrap around his.

I guess sometimes stars are better than clouds.

"Arg! Sasuke bastard beat me again! Damn!" Naruto yelled to his comfort food. As soon as Sasuke and Sakura had walked out of sight, Naruto ran all the way to Ichiraiku and ordered four bowls of miso ramen.

He was on his tenth when the Hyuuga heiress stumbled into the stand. She saw Naruto slurping noisily at the counter and looked around for Sakura. She and Naruto must be on a date, she thought reasonably. I don't want to interrupt...

But before the shy girl could dart out, Naruto called out to her. "Hinata-chan! Come eat dinner with me! Please?" he begged.

Well... Saying no would be rude... Hinata sat down next to him and began fiddling with a napkin. "What would you like, Hinata-chan? My treat!" He grinned crazily at her, setting his chop sticks on the rim of his bowl.

"Um... You don't have to... buy my--"

"Ah, no worries! You came and cured my loneliness! I owe you!" He poked her arm slightly, causing her to blush.

"Okay... I guess I'll have pork ramen, p-please," she muttered. Why is he lonely? What about Sakura-san? She wanted to voice these thoughts, but before she could work up the courage Naruto started talking.

"Sakura-chan broke up with me! I think..." He scratched his head in confusion. "But she doesn't even remember being in love with me!" Naruto wailed as he pulled lightly on his hair. Ayame sat down Hinata's pork ramen and smiled.

He sat his hands on the table, suddenly a defeated look on his face. "That Sasuke bastard... I think he actually likes Sakura-chan... I hope they're happy," he said with conviction, though Hinata knew how it felt to wish the person you cared for most happiness at the expense of your own. She had been doing it every day since she entered the academy and saw the determined look on Naruto's face to prove everyone wrong.

"But it was nice," he continued, resting his chin in his palm, "just for a day, to have someone look at me like she did. Like... I was the most important person in the world. That everything would be okay, as long as I was by her side."

Hinata's face was a deep crimson as she looked at her knees. Why can't I just tell him? Wait, I know. It's just like Neji-niisan told me once, I'm too weak and afraid of rejection.

"I'm sure... That someone else will look at you like that again, Naruto-kun," she mumbled, still playing with the napkin in her lap.

Suddenly rough fingers tilted her chin upward, and her gaze meet Naruto's brilliant blue eyes. "But up till now I guess I took something for granted, Hinata-chan. You've looked at me like that all along."

Before she could register what was happening, Naruto bent his head slightly and kissed her. It wasn't long or incredibly romantic, but it was everything Hinata had dreamed of and more. If just a light touch sent her skin burning and heart thumping like that, what would a longer kiss bring?

Despite her timid nature, Hinata desperately wanted to know. She leaned in and kissed him again and felt him cup her face in his hands. She was nervous, but then she discovered something that made her loosen up immediately.

His lips taste like miso ramen...

"So wait... I've been DATING Naruto all day?"

Sasuke grinned. Of coarse she would react like that.

"Ew... I wonder what made me do that... and why can't I remember anything?" Sakura wondered out loud as she and Sasuke walked along the deserted Konoha streets.

"That's a good question. We can ask Kakashi about it tomorrow," Sasuke replied. Why am I so relieved to find out she doesn't love Naruto? Sakura still grasped his hand, causing his whole arm to tingle.

"I have another question." She suddenly stopped and wrung her hands nervously in front of her. Sasuke's hand felt incredibly cold. She bit her lip and her cheeks turned red for the billionth time that day.

But this time it's kinda cute, he thought.

"Did... Did you mean all the things you said to me back in the park? You know, about going crazy if I didn't love you?"

Sasuke's heart started hammering and he broke out in a cold sweat. Of all the things she could have asked, why that?

"Because... well..." she stammered. "But if you didn't... I mean it's okay... You were probably just trying to snap me out of whatever was happening to me..."


Her head jerked up, bright emerald eyes shining under the street lamps. Sasuke gulped, finding that it had become rather hard to breathe. "Sasuke-kun?"

"I... I meant those things." He sat down on a nearby bench, leaving enough room so Sakura could sit beside him.

"Really?" she whispered.

"...Yeah." I feel like I'm confession to the Hokage herself. Sasuke fisted his hands together in his lap. "When I saw you this morning with Naruto, I thought it was great." At this she frowned. "Only because you would stop chasing me," he quickly amended. She didn't seem pacified. "Anyway, the longer I watched you two, the more frustrated I became. I felt like Naruto had... I don't know, stolen something from me. Something that was mine, and he didn't deserve it."

He felt Sakura shift closer to him, but he didn't back away.

"When you yelled at me in the park you made me think about it. What do I expect from you? I can't ask you to wait while I get my revenge. that could take years, decades, maybe even a life time. I... I don't want you to suffer. It's best you just... move on." He was surprised at how much it hurt to tell Sakura to forget him. It's for her own good.

"But... do you even care how I feel?" she asked as she rubbed the red fabric on the hem of her shirt.

"Yeah... I do, actually..."

"Then hear me out. Revenge is something you want with all your heart and soul, right?" He looked skeptically at her, but nodded in agreement. "And you're willing to train and work hard until you're strong enough to achieve it, right?" He nodded. "Then I have the same right to wait for the thing I want most," she said confidently.

"But why do you want to be with me? You said earlier--"

She placed a finger on his lips to silence him. "We both agreed I wasn't in my right mind then, so let's not keep going back to that, okay?" she asked sweetly.

He nodded and she removed her finger. "Still, why did you choose me?"

She looked to the night sky and furrowed her eye brows into her thinking face. "I guess at first it was because all the other girls liked you, and I wanted to blend in. But, once we were placed on the same team, it became more than that. With all the time we spent together, all the missions and training, I got to know you. I realized there was something beneath all the darkness and hate, something I wanted to help you see in yourself, too. Sasuke, I only want you to be happy." She bit her lips, tears springing up in her eyes. "I can't explain why, but I just want you to be happy..."

He felt like someone had stabbed him though the chest with a kunai. She's just wanted me to be happy... And I've been so cruel... But my revenge... What about everything I've dreamed of? Killing Itachi, restoring my clan... He glanced at Sakura. ...But I guess the second objective DOES require some assistance...

"Sakura... I can't promise anything. Killing Itachi must come first. Do you understand?"

She nodded, but he knew she could never understand how he felt. After all, she had her parents.

"I can't be close to anyone. What if Itachi found out? What if he came after you?"

She smiled a sad smile. "Sometimes the reward is greater than the risk, Sasuke-kun..." Tears were rolling down her face, and every salty drop that landed on her legs made him feel worse.

"Would you really put everything on the line?"

"Yeah," she replied without a moment of hesitation.

A small smile crossed his face. A will of fire... Just like me... He got up and knelt in front of her, and slowly wiped the tears from her face. "Can you do me a favor, Sakura?"

She sniffled and nodded.

"Please... I never want you to cry for me again, okay?"

Her bottom lip trembled and she fell into his arms, sobbing into his shoulder. His fingers grazed the tips of her rosy hair. Soft... Just like I imagined... With her in his arms he realized that he felt better than he had in his whole life.

He thought loving someone else would make his life complicated. That because of that emotion, that weakness, he wouldn't be able to complete his goals. But at that moment, he felt like he could topple mountains, that he could step on Itachi and kill him with one blow.

Hn... That idiot Naruto was actually right about something... Comrades... Loved ones... That's where true power lies.

He kissed the top of Sakura's hair and wrapped his arms around her. It's time that I grew up... And realize there's more to life than just revenge.

"Man Kakashi, are you sure we did the right thing?" asked Asuma with his cigarette hanging from his lips. "It's dangerous to put things like that in Ino's hands. Trust me, I know."

"Ah, I think it went fine," he replied, flipping to the next page of 'Icha Icha Snowstorm'.

"Have more faith in our students," the female of the group said as she brushed her dark hair. Her startling crimson eyes looked to Asuma. "Besides, it will be interesting to see how this has affected everyone."

"Well, my Lee is more determined than ever to pursue the beauty of youth!" Gai said as he struck a pose, accidentally cutting Asuma's cigarette in half.

"Yeah... we're all thrilled for him," Kurenai responded lamely.

"You think they'll figure out that we gave Ino the potion?" Asuma wondered out loud as he pulled another cigarette from his jounin vest.

"No. I think most of them will be a little too busy to notice..." Kakashi said as he continued reading.

The four jounin enjoyed the rest of the night, wondering how things would be different in the morning...