Sakura looked away from filing the last of her reports at the newly-inducted Hokage, and restrained a sigh.
"Ummm...if you...like...a person...how do you, errr..."
Sakura was surprised. Naruto was usually gung-ho, figure-it-out-yourself-or-die-trying. The fact that he was asking for her help hadn't happened since that first exercise in chakra control with Kakashi-sensei. It also bade ill. For her, at least.
"How do you tell them?" she finished for Naruto.
Sakura paused for a long moment, tapping one finger on her chin.
"Well, it depends on the person."
Sakura looked over at Naruto, unnerved by the defeat in his voice.
"What, you thought there was a generic way of doing things?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, there's a generic way of doing ninjutsu, and taijutsu, and genjutsu..."
"Naruto, relationships aren't ninja techniques."
The Hokage flopped down on his chair, limbs askew, and sighed.
"I know, I know. Kinda."
Sakura didn't believe him.
"It's just that they're...so hard to figure out."
Naruto was avoiding using gender-specific words. That also bade ill for Sakura. They could be talking about anyone.
Naruto paused, thinking, trying to find the best way to phrase it. His shoulders slumped, and he ran a hand through his spiky hair, pushing the Hokage hat off onto the floor. "It's hard to describe. There's just so many...walls I hit every time. And I have no clue how they feel about me, if they see me as anything other than, well, Naruto."
"And this is a bad thing? Seeing you as being Naruto?"
"Very much. After all, they don't have a particularly high opinion of me."
That ruled out Hinata. And herself, of course. It wouldn't be Ino either. She knew that most of the girls had their opinions of Naruto changed once he had begun to grow up, and had changed even more drastically when he became Hokage. Of course there would be one or two that would disapprove of him, but no-one in their generation was really averse to Naruto's clumsy charm. So, it was either someone she didn't know, or the person Naruto wanted was male.
Naruto looked up and over at her. "Yeah, Sakura-chan?"
"Is this person male or female?"
Naruto balked at her question, and looked away, and murmured something.
"Say that again?"
"Male! Okay?" Naruto was blushing, but it was only barely visible beneath his tan.
Sakura nodded and gave him a small, reassuring smile.
"Thanks, Naruto. That helps a lot, actually."
"Yes. I hate guessing."
Naruto gave Sakura a lop-sided smile. "Alright."
"So, is it someone I know?"
"Well, at least that narrows it down a little. So, why do you want to woo this person?"
"I've...liked him for some time. You know how I hate being roundabout about things, but...whenever I try to bring up the subject with him, it always ends up falling away, and I haven't managed to do anything about it. It's...frustrating."
Sakura smiled wryly, her sentiments echoed in Naruto's words. "I have the same issue."
"Really!" Naruto was sitting upright in a heartbeat.
Sakura couldn't restrain a chuckle. "Yes, really. I have relationships, too, y'know."
Sakura could see Naruto was about to ask who, but he reigned in that question, and instead asked,
"Male or female?"
Sakura couldn't help but smile. "Yes, really."
She was startled by the blatant relief on Naruto's face as he sunk back into his chair. "But...you have the same problem? That there's no right time to talk to the person about stuff?"
"Missions, other people, history, all get in the way in some fashion or another."
"Don't I know it," Naruto grumbled darkly. Sakura was about to say something when a displacement of air and the tiniest puff of smoke harkened the arrival of an ANBU in the Hokage's office.
Naruto immediately perked up.
Sakura was mildly surprised; so that was why she hadn't seen the Uchiha around.
Sasuke looked over at Sakura and Naruto scowled.
"Sasuke, we were Team 7. There's no need to be formal here. Take that damn mask off."
Sasuke stood and took off the feline mask and stood in his familiar cocky pose, and gave Sakura a small smile.
"Sasuke. Are you okay? How'd the mission go?" Naruto asked in quick succession.
"You sure you want me to talk about it here?"
"Sasuke," there was extreme exasperation in Naruto's voice and posture. "We were a team. In some ways, we still are. You can talk about anything in front of her that you can talk about in front of me."
A wry smirk crept across Sasuke's face, but before he could begin, Naruto cut in.
"You didn't answer my first question. Are you okay?"
"I'm unharmed, if that's what you're asking."
"Good. Now, the mission...?"
Sakura watched the interaction with some amusement, observing as it fluctuated between informal and formal, between Hokage and ANBU to two friends/rivals. It was an intricate dance, and their interactions gave her more insight into each man than she had gotten before.
The fact that they were now effectively ignoring her was helpful.
Well, at least she now knew who Naruto wanted.
Too bad she was as awful at reading Sasuke as Naruto was, if not worse. Naruto had slightly more insight into the raven-haired man's mind than most. Sakura bet it was a dark, twisted, dangerous place, and was actually impressed by Naruto's ability to navigate it with as much skill as he was.
After Sasuke finished reporting, he put his mask back on and disappeared in another puff of smoke. Naruto rubbed his temples, trying to absorb all that Sasuke had said. He wrote everything down quickly in a scrawl that only Naruto could read, before leaning back in the chair.
"You want Sasuke."
Naruto jumped, then turned and looked at Sakura.
Sakura could see he had forgotten her presence.
"Why?" Sakura asked. This was the question she really wanted to hear the answer to.
"Umm...it's hard to explain."
"You still want him even after all the pain he's put you through? He nearly killed you, Naruto."
"I know, I know. But..."
"That doesn't stop you from wanting him."
"Yeah," Naruto murmured sheepishly. "But he's so damn hard to talk to! Every time I do, we end up in an argument or sparring."
"Well, if that's the case, why don't you just be as blunt as you tend to be?"
"What?" Naruto was surprised.
"I don't think Sasuke expects you to be tactful about anything. So, don't try to be."
Naruto turned that thought over in his mind, and Sakura watched as he weighed it.
'He really has grown up,' Sakura thought with a small smile.
"YOSH! Will do! Thanks, Sakura-chan!" Naruto flashed her one of his sunniest smiles, and jumped out the window, heading over to Sasuke's residence.
Sakura watched him go, and couldn't help but chuckle. She didn't know how valuable her advice had been, but it had given Naruto hope. She's know by tomorrow how successful Naruto was.
Naruto didn't bother knocking; why should he? Sasuke could feel him coming from a whiles away, and he was Hokage, so he didn't have to explain anything to anyone.
Mostly. Except to Sakura, Tsuande and Iruka. Never Sasuke though.
Naruto swung through a random window...
And landed right on top of Sasuke.
"Dobe!" Sasuke squeezed out of air-deprived lungs.
Naruto simply grinned at him and rested more of his weight on Sasuke, grabbing Sasuke's wrists and pinning them to the floor.
"Shut up,"he growled.
Sasuke wasn't allowed the leisure of finishing his sentence, since he found that his lips were quite occupied. After a long moment, Naruto pulled back, and grinned at a slightly dazed Sasuke.
"I like you, even if you are an asshole, Sasuke."
Naruto was vaguely unnerved by the calculating look in Sasuke's eyes, and pleasantly surprised when he was drawn roughly down into another kiss.
Who said seduction had to be subtle?
Apparently her advice had gone over well, Sakura decided when the Hokage was a little more chipper than usual, though only people who had known him for a long time would be able to tell. Sakura was actually fairly happy for him; with his life as awful as it had been, he deserved some success in personal relations. She was happy for him.
Sakura smiled wryly as she finished binding the wounds on another patient, and left the room, not allowing her sadness to show. Her advice wouldn't serve her so well in her pursuit. At least, she didn't think it would.
But, then again, there were many forms of seduction...