Running Blind... Sequel to 'The Ability to See'. No matter how much things changed, it seemed like they would forever remain the same. Operation: Discover Icha Icha continues, and this time they're more determined than ever. Will the mystery of Kakashi's beloved manga finally be revealed? Sasuke+Sakura, Neji+Tenten, and Kakashi+Kurenai; mentions of Naruto+Hinata.

---------- Naruto Fan Fiction: Running Blind ----------

"Are... you sure?" Tsunade asked with a hint of disbelief in her tone. The two teenage shinobi standing before her -- Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Sasuke -- both nodded affirmatively. They had vowed to complete their mission, and their mission they would complete! No matter how ridiculous it just so happened to be...



Tsunade shrugged and reached down to grab a scroll. She sighed and tossed it to Sakura who caught it in both hands before dropping her eyes to it. She blinked once as her medical ninja instructor smiled slightly. "Even though I find this plot of yours to be ridiculous, I'll grant you permission to try. This scroll is the confirmation that this is an official mission in case you have to prove it to someone," she explained and Sakura nodded as she pocketed the scroll. "However, I am going to warn the both of you that stealing something from Kakashi isn't going to be an easy task. And that's why I am taking it upon myself to summon together a team of shinobi for you to cooperate with."

"Okay," Sakura agreed quietly and Sasuke didn't say anything. On one hand he would have preferred to be able to accomplish the mission without assistance -- but on the other hand, he knew that it wasn't a task to be easily achieved with just the two of them. And so, he had no choice but to agree.


"These are the shinobi that will be assisting you," Tsunade said, waving her hand for Shizune to open the door. Sasuke and Sakura both turned their heads as five very familiar nins walked in the door: Hyuuga Neji, Tenten, Nara Shikamaru, and Yuuhi Kurenai. Sakura nodded to the first three; Neji and Tenten had assisted them before, and Shikamaru would be good for making the plans. But was Kurenai really such a good idea?

"Um, but, Tsunade-shishou, aren't Kurenai and Kakashi-sensei...?" Sakura asked and Sasuke folded his arms. Sakura was right, Kurenai would probably just end up jeopardizing the mission...

Tsunade closed her eyes. "That's exactly why she'll be useful to you. Kurenai may be able to talk to Kakashi for you and get all the information on the target item as possible before you make your move. Also, she might just be the perfect person to keep Kakashi busy for you. Remember, they have a date tonight," the blond haired woman explained. Sakura sweatdropped.

"And how exactly could we remember? We never knew." Sasuke injected. Tsunade seemed to think about this for a second before disregarding the subject. She returned her eyes to the assembled four.

"Well, begin," she said.

Sakura turned to face Kurenai and the others. She smiled as she thrust an arm into the air. She then yelled in the most excited way that caused Sasuke to roll his eyes, "Operation: Discover Icha Icha Part IV start!"


"Okay, here's the plan..." Shikamaru began, quickly tossing a bored look to the clouds above and secretly wishing that he could be one of them. They were so free, who wouldn't want to be like one of those beautiful, white, fluffy... He was getting off track here completely.

"Kurenai; since you have a date with Kakashi tonight, you should try and learn what you can about Icha Icha Tactics while at the Ichiraku Ramen. Before leaving there, make some kind of excuse to exit the room and Tenten will meet up with you. Tell her all that you know and then resume your date. Based on the information we receive, we'll begin to act." Shikamaru instructed, causing Sasuke to shake his head hopelessly. This was never going to work. Why was that again? Ah yes, because Kakashi was a shinobi just like them. Shinobi-conducted schemes wouldn't entangle a Jounin of his caliber so easily, he was far too good for it.

"Questions, Uchiha?" Neji asked casting him a quick glare upon noticing the way Sasuke was just staring off as if they had already failed. The said Uchiha shrugged, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

"None," he dismissed quietly, knowing that it was pointless to try and talk them out of it. It was their mission now -- official, important, and stupid as hell.

"Good." Neji replied, the hint of a smirk tugging at his mouth(he just loved giving orders), "Actually, why don't you just remain silent for the duration of this mission, Gai?"

Sasuke folded his arms. "Hn."

Sakura narrowed her eyes and Tenten threw Neji a near irritated look before all returned to the objective at hand. It was a shame that Neji took such pleasure in teasing Sasuke over that humiliation two weeks earlier, but there wasn't anything they could do about that, now was there? It was downright hilarious, whether at Sasuke's expense or not...


And the gloves were off.


Not that it mattered much.

Tenten breathed a disappointed sigh upon receiving news from Kurenai that Kakashi refused to leak even the tiniest hint about his endeared and forever sacred book. That piece of the mission had not been a success, but it wasn't over yet! And, with that idea set in her mind, Tenten returned to her team and Kurenai to her date.

"Nothing," Tenten muttered to her companions causing a collective sigh to form between their little squad. The chocolate haired kunoichi looked from one to the other, her eyes turning to each of them at least briefly before glancing back toward Ichiraku. "What now, Shikamaru?" she asked. The addressed black haired boy looked over at her with a dull look.

"Plan B."

Eyebrows were raised -- Sakura raised a hand! "Um, what's 'Plan B'?" she questioned, and everyone turned their eyes to Shikamaru, the plotter of the group. He closed his eyes.

"How troublesome. Look, we tail Kakashi and Kurenai to Training Ground #4 which is where Kurenai told Tenten they were heading next. Neji will activate his Byakkugan to find out where Kakashi is hiding that itchy book thing this time. After he has that information, he'll report it to the rest of us. Then we spread out. Sakura and Sasuke will hide somewhere nearby, hopefully off of the ground and out of side as conductive as 'hiding' should be. Next, Tenten hides a good distance from the two of them and keeps a close eye on what's going on with Neji providing back up because of his excellent field of vision."

Shikamaru paused only briefly, "If anyone notices anything, they are to signal immediately by waving. While Kurenai and Kakashi are talking, I will sneak up behind the two of them and activate my Kagemane no Jutsu to capture Kakashi. While I have Kakashi trapped, Sasuke is to secure the wanton object and quickly transfer it to Sakura's possession. The two of them will then escape with the book while the rest of us try to come up with some manner of explaining ourselves since Kakashi will probably be upset at the loss of his book." He took a much needed deep breath upon finishing.

A long silence was all that followed, as everyone absorbed the information they had been handed. Shikamaru glanced from one to the other before once again ascending his eyes to those perfect formations of fluff floating aloft in the gentle cerulean sky...

"Shikamaru?" Sakura asked suddenly. Shikamaru blinked once.


"What are we doing again?"

Hopeless, completely hopeless.


Operation: Discover Icha Icha Part V! was going relatively well after the semi failure of Part IV. Actually Part IV and Part V were essentially the same, but Sakura still felt the need to switch to a new Part. It had something to do with bad karma or something over the initial failure, it really wasn't important(at least to everyone but her and Tenten, who everyone had heard was an avid believer in karma)...

Either way, it was the moment of truth.

Everything had proceeded exactly the way Shikamaru had been hoping. And now, said nin was crouched and hiding not far from Kakashi and Kurenai's current position sitting on a bench. They were apparently chatting about something, and no one even cared about finding out what. But the point was that the time had come. He was prepared to use his Kagemane no Jutsu, everyone was in position, and it was time to truly commence with this farce of an operation...

And so, Shikamaru approached further before raising his hands in front of him and proceeding with any necessary seals. It was at that moment when Sakura noticed Kakashi start to turn his head. She waved her arms about frantically, the events almost seeming to be in slow motion, but it was already too late. Shikamaru's Kagemane no Jutsu had succeeded...

... in trapping Kurenai.

Frustrated groans came from a few of the ninja but none loud enough to hear. Dropping the Henge no Jutsu he had previously used to turn into his date, Kakashi stood from the bench as Shikamaru released his Jutsu, allowing Kurenai to drop her Henge no Jutsu as well.

Either Kakashi had figured everything about before even they had, or Kurenai had betrayed them. Either way, it was annoying and very, very troublesome to say the least.

"I'm sorry," Kurenai mumbled with a small bow. It had been the latter. Bothersome, traitorous...

Kakashi glanced back at Shikamaru with his eyebrow raised in mock confusion. His eye twisted into a grin.

"Oh, it's only Shikamaru!" he stated the Shikamaru grumbled under his breath.

Operation: Discover Icha Icha Part V... failure.

Meanwhile, up in the tree nearby, a certain raven haired Uchiha was cursing under his breath similarly to Shikamaru. He hated being a failure, and to fail four -- five according to Sakura -- times in a row was just disgraceful(and that humiliation regarding the Henge no Jutsu less than fourteen days ago just made it all the worse). This was an embarrassment, this was low, humiliating, degrading, annoying...

His thoughts were cut short when he noticed Sakura's lips curl into a sad frown. She breathed a disappointed sigh; she really was interested in knowing what was in that book. Sasuke had no idea why she wanted to know so badly, but it wasn't confusion or curiosity that his mind wandered to. No, instead that look on the pink haired girl's face caused something to pool inside of him -- a new kind of determination was forming in his soul, a feeling that caused his blood to rush through his veins in thought(and this reverie would have without a doubt made Rock Lee and Maito Gai proud)...

And, in his sudden burst of unknown inspiration, he clenched his teeth before flipping out of his hiding place and into the open. Kakashi turned his eye to his student in confusion as Sasuke attempted to apparently kick him in the side. Catching the younger ninja's leg in his left palm, Kakashi seemed to study Sasuke's eyes as if searching for an answer...

... but of course it was nothing that deep. Kakashi's eye blinked. "Hey Sasuke, what's up?"

Noticing an opportunity, Sasuke grabbed Kakashi's left wrist and pushed it to one side before working nimbly to flip open the exposed pocket on Kakashi's vest, quickly slipping the objective out of it. With Icha Icha Tactics now in hand, Sasuke backflipped once to get away from his teacher before spinning and tossing the book toward his companion. Catching the book, Sakura tossed a look down at it through wide, disbelieving eyes before shrugging and running off with Sasuke following close behind her.

A long silence blanketed the Training Grounds as Kakashi, Kurenai, Shikamaru, Neji, and Tenten all watched the two former members of Team 7 flee the area. After a while, Kakashi slipped his hands in his pockets and threw a glance at Kurenai, smiling under his mask. Kurenai blinked in confusion -- hadn't Icha Icha Tactics just been stolen? What was he so happy about?

"Kurenai, want some dessert?" he asked, insinuating that they head to the sweet shop as they'd obviously previously planned. Kurenai seemed baffled by his offer in the beginning, before returning his invisible smile and nodding once.

"Of course."

And they were off. Neji and Tenten stepped out of their hiding places to exchange a confused look with each other and then with Shikamaru, who merely started to walk off with his eyes on the sky. Neji raised an eyebrow.

"Where are you off to?" he asked. Shikamaru didn't spare them so much as a glance.

"This mission's a failure. I'm going home," he answered simply, and not another word was said to him. Yet another long silence passed between Neji and Tenten, before either dared to say anything.

"Um, what just happened?" Tenten asked. It was then that a familiar bowl shaped head popped up out of nowhere, looking philosophical and nodding sagely.

"Sasuke-kun has realized his inner ninja! His determination to fulfill the goal set out before him has brought him to terms with the persistence and beauty of the nindo inside his soul!" Lee observed. A quick evil, evil glare from his pearly eyed teammate caused him to shut up. His philosophical nonsense had been brief, but very insightful for those unfortunate enough to understand what he'd said!

"So, what do we do now? Try to catch up to Sasuke and Sakura or just wait until we meet back up at the park later on this evening?" Tenten asked, and Neji dropped into his Juuken stance. Lee then ducked out of the picture as Tenten took the hint and smiled. Training, so very typical. Well, at least she was getting time alone with Neji(not that that was an out of the ordinary thing)!


Not a word had been spoken between Sasuke and Sakura ever since fleeing the scene with Kakashi's dear book, and now they had stopped somewhere a good distance away. All eyes were on the cover of the book and the words inscribed into it, they indeed held the mythical Icha Icha Tactics of which they had vowed to accumulate. And as Sakura started to open the book so that the two of them could look upon its sacred pages, tension filled the air. Everything was surreal in such an impossible way, so much curiosity, so much anticipation. Sakura opened the book, and the two former members of Team 7's eyes collected on the first page to find...

... something that shocked and amazed the hell out of them both! In a mix of surprise and confusion, the two exchanged a bewildered glance before once again dropping their eyes to the book and flipping the page...

It couldn't be...


"Well, let's see it." Neji said, arms folded. Sasuke and Sakura exchanged an odd look of enlightenment that greatly bewildered Neji and Tenten. Without a word, Sasuke slipped his hand into his back pocket to retrieve the book; he scowled slightly before tossing the book to the Hyuuga, who caught it.

Neji raised an eyebrow before he flipped the book open. His lips twisted down in a frown as Tenten leaned over his shoulder to see what he had seen inside that fabled itchy book as Shikamaru had dubbed it hours earlier. And what she seen was enough to cause her jaw to drop, for that which young Tenten saw was...

... absolutely nothing.

Every last page in the whole damn book was completely blank!

Yep, they had been played like electric guitars during a rock concert. Apparently Kurenai had known in advance and warned Kakashi, causing the white haired man to leave his beloved book at home to protect it and had brought a copy that only looked like the same thing on the outside. They had been out tricked in their own trick.

That sly, sly dog.

Finally figuring that they never would truly know the answer to the mystery, a few words of surrender were exchanged before the two teams went their separate ways(there wasn't much interest left anymore anyways). After all, Neji and Tenten had training to do(as usual). Sasuke and Sakura on the other hand had to report their failure to Tsunade...


"How could you do this to us?" Sakura questioned, and Sasuke folded his arms. He would like to hear an answer to that as well. Tsunade sighed lowly, fiddling absently with the pencil on her desk and lowering her eyes to a piece of paper.

"I'm really sorry about tricking you guys; but you have to admit that Kurenai was a good idea. She was supposed to blurt everything out to Kakashi while at the same time maintain a cover to remain inconspicuous to you all," she said, and Sakura snapped her fingers in disappointment. They had been played by more than just Kakashi! They had been intentionally set up!

"Trust me, it's for your own good."

Sasuke and Sakura left Tsunade's office, their destination really nowhere. Upon stepping out onto the sidewalk, they paused. They had plenty of time on their hands, actually it was a relief that the whole Operation: Discover Icha Icha! stuff had ended(at least for Sasuke, Sakura had enjoyed herself quite a bit it seemed)...

"Hey, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura asked quietly, drawing the aforementioned shinobi's attention to herself. She blushed slightly and smiled. "Thank you... for trying so hard," she added and Sasuke averted his eyes. He may have tried, but he had failed. And failure should not receive gratitude -- that made sense, right?

"I still failed."

"It's really all right," she murmured again, her eyes raising to the sky as a long sigh escaped her lips. "Actually, I was just curious. It was never that important, it is just a silly book after all." The most dumbfounded look Sakura had ever seen crawled onto her companion's face causing her to blink twice in confusion.

"But, you--"

"I what?"

"You made it seem..."

"Made it seem like what?"

"... like it was important..."

"To me, it kinda was. But, it's just one of those many things that are only important because we convince ourselves they are," she responded, and Sasuke seemed to contemplate this for a few seconds. He then breathed a low sigh before turning to walk off in the direction of Training Ground #2, where they were all supposed to meet up for their next mission. It was right around three o'clock and if they didn't make it soon they would be late(they had roughly ten minutes to make it)...


Kakashi was headed toward Training Ground #2 to meet up with Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura as well. It had been a long day; he had to commend their efforts, they may have actually succeeded had Kurenai not spilled everything before they attempted to execute their plan!

With a hidden grin, Kakashi reached back to pull Icha Icha Tactics from his right back pocket, only to find that nothing was there! His visible eye widened and he began searching the pockets in his vest for his book, knowing it had to be somewhere. After finding that it was nowhere on him, he spun around and looked around to see if he had dropped it somewhere...

... but it was nowhere to be seen.


Meanwhile, Kurenai was standing somewhere not far behind him, clasping Icha Icha Tactics between her hands(the real one). She had just found it lying on Kakashi's desk in his house minutes earlier(she had assumed he had forgotten it), but she hadn't opened it as of yet. She nibbled gently on her bottom lip. About that, what was she to do? She was curious about its contents, but she was also respectful of Kakashi's privacy.

But could looking at a book really be considered an invasion of privacy?

Shaking her head, Kurenai allowed a smile to form on her lips. She didn't want to endanger her growing relationship with the absent minded Jounin, and she knew it would upset him if she were to look inside. And so, with that wide smile on her lips, Kurenai hurried to catch up to Kakashi in order to return that which was rightfully his...


"Looking for this?" Kurenai asked, tossing the book Kakashi's way. He looked up from his seat on the ground and hurriedly straightened his posture to catch the treasured item. He quickly checked it out to make sure no damage had been done, causing Kurenai to quirk an eyebrow.

Kakashi's eye curled into a smile. "You had the chance, but you didn't open it," he commented(he could tell because he was Kakashi). Kurenai's smile only broadened.

"I have no reason to invade your privacy; if you want me to know, you'll tell me one day," was her response and Kakashi seemed pleased enough with her answer. He lowered his eye once again to Icha Icha Tactics before shrugging and pocketing it.

He waited a few seconds before extending a hand toward her and offering in typical Kakashi style, "Want some lunch?"

Kurenai couldn't resist the chuckle that rose from her chest as she nodded and placed her hand in his. "You really don't care if you're late..." she stated, and received no response as the two walked off in the direction of a nice little cafe that had just recently moved into Konoha...


"What is it, Tenten?" Neji unexpectedly stopped training to ask, noticing a slight decrease in Tenten's usual perfect accuracy with her weapons. She was definitely thinking about something, and that meant that the only way to get it off her mind would be to get her to talk about it!

Tenten breathed a low sigh as she stopped attacking her teammate, her eyelids drooping slightly. "Well, I just feel like we failed Sasuke and Sakura..." she murmured. She had managed to create a fairly close friendship with Sakura over those three years and it bugged her to know she couldn't help her out. More importantly though, Neji seemed to understand this.

"There's no reason to blame yourself. Kakashi's one of the best in Konoha, remember?" he asked, and Tenten blinked twice. Neji seemed confused by this reaction of hers. "Uh, what?"

"You're... trying to cheer me up, aren't you Neji?" she asked, and Neji turned his head away to hide the hint of a blush -- if someone were to see that, it would ruin his reputation! But, still, ruining his friendship/relationship with Tenten would be worse...

"... I guess," he responded, almost disbelieving of himself. Why had he said that? Tenten smiled and stepped close enough to kiss Neji on the cheek, making his expression one of bewilderment rather than embarrassment.

"Thanks," she mumbled. Tenten seemed to be cheering up a bit, and Neji was content with this. He glanced over toward the tree that still had several kunai stabbed into it, a light smile tugging at one side of his mouth.

Maybe he was finally beginning to see whatever it was that he wasn't originally able to...


Something was going on; Kakashi was usually late, but not this late, and Naruto was usually there before Kakashi. In all honesty, it had been more than two hours since the four were supposed to depart for their mission and Kakashi nor Naruto had even briefly made an appearance. Instead, Sasuke and Sakura had been forced to sit there in the park, talking a little here and there and waiting.

But, as people tend to do, they were beginning to get tired of waiting.

"What do you think, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura finally asked, breaking a rather irritating silence that had begun to fill the now evening air. Sasuke glanced at her. She was sitting on a bench close to the tree he was leaned against, brushing her fingers down through her silky strawberry hair.


"Should we... keep waiting, or just go?" she questioned carefully, not really wanting to go home. It may have been rather pointless to wait for Kakashi and Naruto, but she did enjoy spending time with Sasuke(whether or not it could actually be considered 'spending time together')...

"..." Sasuke was silent for quite some time, probably thinking about Sakura's proposal. He wasn't exactly certain which would be best -- go home and risk failing the mission, or keep waiting and waste nine or so more hours of their lives. He was about inclined to just leave and let it go, but as a ninja, he knew that simply abandoning a mission was a very terrible mistake. And so, he came up with just the perfect plan...

"Why don't we visit Godaime-sama and ask her?" Sasuke questioned slowly, causing Sakura to blink once. Why hadn't she thought of that? It was an idea, and probably would yield more answers than sitting around and waiting for people who would probably never show up...

And, with that, the two headed off for Tsunade's office.

Nearby, hiding in a tree and amazingly undetected, Naruto grinned slyly before glancing at his watch. His job of making sure Sasuke and Sakura eventually departed for the Godaime Hokage's office was done, now on to that date with Hinata!


It was ironic in a strange way. Sasuke and Sakura had indeed visited Tsunade, only to find out that Kakashi had earlier requested for the mission to be given to Team Gai. That had been a shock in its own self and the two couldn't help but be curious as to why Kakashi hadn't informed them of this. But, either way, they had just received the news and were standing outside Tsunade's office, trying to decide what to do with the rest of the day...

"So," Sakura began, smiling a little. Sasuke looked at her again, noticing that expression of hers and breathing a low sigh. Yep, she wanted something. More ice cream, maybe?

Not quite.

"You wanna... go for a walk?" she asked cautiously, and Sasuke seemed to debate over her offer for a few minutes. He knew that if he said no, she probably wouldn't give up so easily. She was Sakura after all, and it wouldn't be very Sakura-like to just give up. And so, his decision was thus...

"Fine," he elected to go with her, causing Sakura's grin to widen happily. Her life had really stepped up a couple of notches. And right now, she was about as happy as could be. There were only one or two things that could make her happier -- the most notable of which being for Sasuke to admit that he liked her. Like that would ever happen, whether or not it was true.

Either way, Sakura dropped her eyes briefly to one of his hands as she caught it with one of hers. Sasuke looked at her somewhat puzzled for a moment before sighing in defeat, a peaceful smile forming in the back of his mind somewhere as they began walking.

However, it wasn't impressively long before they noticed the odd scrutiny they were receiving from other residents of Konoha. It probably had something to do with Sasuke holding hands with someone, that was a bit out of the ordinary, but did they all have that big of a problem? Needless to say, it was beginning to get agitating, but that feeling only magnified when the two realized that the collective fanboys and fangirls were beginning to crowd around them...

"Are you two dating?" was one of the many questions they received, and more and more questions began to filter out from the annoying stalker people. Sakura blushed slightly at a couple of said queries, and Sasuke merely grew more and more agitated. It wasn't any of their business, they were asking personal questions and it was beginning to weigh even heavier on his nerves...

Meanwhile, nearby, Naruto noticed the commotion and an idea entered his mind. "Wait for me here, Hinata-chan," he instructed, causing his date to nod once.

"A--A--All right... N--Naruto-kun..." she stammered and Naruto turned back toward the crowd. While they were all busy annoying Sasuke and Sakura, he performed a couple of seals and in a puff of smoke, his normal appearance was replaced by that of a naked female version of himself. S/he stepped a bit closer, and whistled to get the male part of the population's attention.

"Yoohoo, boys," s/he called with a wink, blowing a quick kiss their way. It was less than a nanosecond before every one of the fanboys(and one of the fangirls) were fawning over Naruko, leaving Sasuke and Sakura with only the rabid fangirls to deal with.

Gritting his teeth in annoyance, Sasuke raised his hands in front of himself in preparation to perform a couple of seals, drawing Sakura's attention. But it wasn't until the first word left his mouth that she realized what he was planning, "Katon: Goukakyu--"

Yep, he was going to torch them all.

Sakura began to panic, waving her arms about frantically to try and stop her obviously irritated companion. "Sasuke-kun, cut it out! This could get you in major trouble you know!" she shouted, causing Sasuke to breath a sigh as he stopped his Jutsu. Sakura had a point. Torching a bunch of innocent(if you could call them that), albeit annoying fangirls would solve nothing...

A smirk tugged at his lips when another idea crossed his mind. Sakura's eyes widened as he clasped each of her shoulders in either of his hands and took a deep breath. Without any kind of warning, he then leaned in and planted a full kiss on her lips, one that caused Sakura to gasp softly in surprise. It wasn't exactly what she had expected of her first kiss, but it certainly wasn't a disappointment. Inner Sakura leaped for joy while the fangirls breathed sighs of defeat before turning to walk away...

It was only then that the group of hysterically insane girls noticed a familiar Hyuuga walking down the sidewalk with Tenten. Their feet immediately commenced drawing them towards him, depression forgotten. Noticing the stalkers, Neji and Tenten took off in a run to escape, leaving Sasuke and Sakura in peace.

Breaking off the kiss, Sasuke mentally patted himself on the back when he noticed that dreamy expression on Sakura's face. She smiled, the pink on her cheeks putting her hair to shame. It was amazing that even though Sasuke had betrayed Konoha(though his name had been cleared), he still had more fangirls than anyone could stand to put up with...

"So... Sasuke-kun..." Sakura began as they resumed their walk, causing Sasuke to glance at her. "Does... this mean that we are dating now?" she asked, her heartbeat climbing a bit. Sasuke closed his eyes.

"I guess so," he replied quietly. Sakura smiled and leaned her head against his shoulder. It was quite a long time before any more words were exchanged between the two. Actually, it was just as they were entering the park...

"You know, Sakura..."

"Mm hm?"

"I have... managed to realize something during this whole Icha Icha thing..."

"What's that?"

"... That I enjoyed spending time with you."





"You really, truly mean that, Sasuke-kun?"

With a light smirk and a roll of his eyes, "Hn." And then it was time for another role reversal; he hugged her, in contrast to the way that she used to be the one hugging him all the time, and she sighed contentedly.

Her life... was perfect, absolutely perfect right now...


"You... You think we lost them?" Neji asked, and Tenten spared a peak out from their hiding place just inside a thin alley. She ducked her head back in as the fangirls flocked by screaming random things about Neji. Tenten sighed in relief and offered a smile to her sparring partner.

"They're gone," she answered, and Neji rubbed his temple. He would never be able to fully get used to having stalkers -- or fangirls as some preferred to call them...

A few minutes of silence past as Neji silently vowed to get the Uchiha for sending those wenches after him, even though he and Tenten both knew it wasn't intentional -- the white eyed shinobi was probably just trying to make himself feel better.

A thought crossed Tenten's mind then. Come to think of it, why hadn't Sasuke and Sakura thought to ask Neji to find out the contents of Icha Icha Tactics with his Byakkugan? Ah, it wasn't important now anyway. Tenten certainly wasn't about to suggest it to them, she was glad that the ordeal was finally over, after all(and besides that, Neji may never forgive her if she did something like that)!

"Sooo, is that offer for ramen still open?" asked Tenten carefully to disregard the whole idea, and Neji blinked.

"I guess so," he replied. Tenten's smile widened.

Ramen would be a good idea... Yes, ramen.

---------- Epilogue ----------

The next day, all four former members of Team 7 arrived at their meeting place to train. Kakashi, as usual, was late with some silly explanation but no one seemed to care much and just basically dismissed it. Hell, for all they knew it was true!

Anyway, it was Sakura who finally spoke up. She had a question, and she just had to know the answer...

"Kakashi-sensei, did you know... about our plans all along?" she questioned. Kakashi's eye smiled as usual.


Sasuke narrowed his eyes slightly. "What did we do wrong? What could we have possibly done differently to succeed?" he asked. Kakashi seemed to think about this for a minute.

"You want the theoretical explanation?" he asked. Sakura shrugged.


Kakashi stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Theoretically, had you not told Tsunade of your plan, she wouldn't have told Kurenai and you would've stood a much better chance of success," he answered. Sasuke breathed a sigh.

"And why haven't you ever just told us what's in the book?" he questioned. Sakura seemed interested in this as well.

No matter how much things changed, it seemed they would forever remain the same.

A few seconds whizzed by as Kakashi's grin only widened under his mask. He turned and began to walk off toward a particular area of the Training Grounds, before giving them the answer to that question, an answer that would probably never do them a bit of good for as long as they lived...

"You never asked."

---------- Owari: The End ----------

Disclaimer & Copyright Information: I do not own Naruto (© Kishimoto Masashi); however, I am the author of this story. If you have comments or suggestions, leave a review or send me an e-mail. Doumo arigatou, for reading my writing!