The Art of Deception

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Author's Note: Yes, yes, I'm back, you can all cheer. But at the same time, this is the last chapter, so maybe you won't be so happy... I hope you guys like the ending! Honestly, I think it sucks, even thoughI worked on it for a while, even though it's short. Don't worry, I'm definitely making more fanfics... I just need new ideas.

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Scroll VII: Ain't No Other

I could feel it from the start,
Couldn't stand to be apart.
Something 'bout you caught my eye,
Something moved me deep inside!

--Christina Aguilera; Ain't No OtherMan

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Sakura clutched the fabric of her pillow tightly, staring at her clenched fingers with a sort of detatched sadness. Her pink tresses spread over the other side of the pillow, and a blanket was wrapped around her exposed shoulders. Her green-gold eyes were unusually dry, and she decided to take the most of this break in the sobbing to get up. Neji and Naruto were in her living room, talking about the mission. Wrapping the blanket tighter over her scantily-clad figure, she swiped a brush through her hair and washed her face, trying to get the puffy redness out from beneath her eyes. Staring at herself for a moment, she sighed through her teeth and walked into the living room quietly.

Neji was the first to notice she was there, and stopped talking. Naruto carried on obliviously for a moment before trailing off when he saw her there, wrapped in a blanket that oversized her already-small body. Now, though, she just looked like a china doll, easily breakable but determined to stay in one piece. "Sakura-chan..."

"Tea," she said, gesturing vaguely towards the kitchen.

"I'll get it," Neji volunteered quietly. He stood and offered her his seat, nodding to Naruto. "I'll be right back."

Naruto nodded, putting a hand over Sakura's. "Sakura-chan, are you okay?"

Sakura didn't look at him, but stared at their hands. "Hai. No. I don't know." She was silent for a moment. "But then, I wasn't when he left the first time either, and I recovered from that, didn't I?"

"That you did. And turned into the ass-kicking Sakura I know now, eh?" Naruto smiled at her, that foxy grin made especially to cheer her up, and she couldn't help but smile back.

"I guess so."

Naruto shook his head. "Ah, Sakura-chan, come here." He pulled her into a hug, feeling her stiff body underneath the blanket. "Cry. Go ahead. It's not a weakness, Sakura-chan."

She cried. She relaxed into Naruto's arms and wrapped her own around him, clutching at him as if he was a lifeline. He held her gently, stroking her hair, murmuring quiet things like "it's okay" and "cry it out" and "go ahead".

After all the tears had left her body, Sakura relished in the calm, clean feeling she got after a hearty cry. She leaned her head against Naruto's shoulder. "Naruto?"

"Hm?" He ran a thumb over her hand.

"I'm really happy for you. You and Hinata, I mean." She smiled at him. "You're wonderful for each other."

He looked slightly surprised, but broke into that grin again. "Arigato, Sakura-chan. I'm really happy, too. I can't wait."

"When's the wedding?"

"Probably sometime in winter. Hinata wants a winter wedding. She's always liked the cold, you know." His eyes sparkled, and a light blush covered his cheeks.

"Go get her, Naruto," Sakura laughed, pushing him. "I know you want to see her."

"You'll be okay?"

"Hai, I'll be fine. I have Neji." She smiled at him, a determined, lovely smile.

He chuckled. "You do, don't you? Ah, well. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"Narutooooo!"

But he was already gone.

Neji came in with her tea, setting it in front of her. "Where'd he go?"

"Hinata."

He smiled slightly, pearly eyes going up at the corners. "I see." He sat down next to her as she reached for the cup, sipping slowly.

"Arigato, Neji-kun."

He waved a hand, as if to say it was no problem, and brusheda strand of hair from her face, his own visage suddenly softer. He thought she was beautiful when she was all dressed up, breasts and slender neck and updone hair, but now was when he really thought he loved her beyond any other woman: when her hair was down and slightly messy, a blanket wrapped around her like a safeguard, and her eyes slightly puffy from crying, and when she still looked beautiful. "I love you, Sakura."

She looked at him quickly, nearly dropping the tea. Her mouth was slightly open. "Nani?"

"You heard me, Sakura. I love you."

"B-"

"I'll say it again, if you want." There was a dry humor in his eyes and tone as he looked at her intently. "I'll shout it to the world, actually, if it's needed."

"You'll shout it to the world?" She smiled slightly.

"Well, Konoha. And that's close enough."

"Neji..." She set her teacup down and looked at him in the eye, as if trying to size him up. "You moron!" she burst suddenly.

"Huh?" Neji answered brilliantly, confused as hell. He stared at her, but she didn't look like she was angry. More... amused? Happy? Ecstatic?

And then, suddenly, her arms were around him and the blanket down, revealing her... revealing... outfit. "You moron, you idiotic bastard! I hate you!" Sakura was laughing into his shoulder, and then kissing his face all over. "How can you just say that so casually? Like we're discussing the weather, or something?"

He chuckled into her hair, wrapping his arms around her. "Sakura, what are you saying? You want me to say it with more feeling?"

"Well... yes!" She looked at him with a small frown, but her eyes shone. "It's not enough to say you love me, Neji-kun..."

"I guess I'll show it, then." He kissed her.

It was even better than the kiss when they were dancing. This kiss was full of love, where the other one was passion-- this kiss sealed a deal, paid a fare, signed a contract. As they separated, Neji took her hand. "Sakura."

"Hai?"

"The Uchiha..." He cringed mentally to see her face fall slightly. "If he comes back..."

Sakura's face was hard. "I said I wouldn't hesitate anymore, Neji. I meant it."

"But you... you said you loved him." He felt his hand tighten subconsciously over hers. "Gomen. I shouldn't talk about this."

She stroked his cheek. "Neji... I love you more than anything. Even Sasuke. Even life. Can't you see that? The love I have for Sasuke... I just don't want to see him killed. It's complex, you know? It's a wierd feeling, but I have it for all of Team Seven. Gomen nasai."

Neji grasped her wrist and gently kissed her fingers. "It's okay. But Sakura... I was worried."

"For what?"

"I thought I would lose you."

She smiled slightly and kissed him sweetly, drawing it out as long as she could before coming out for air.

"You'll never lose me."