Sakura cautiously beckoned for Neji to follow her with one hand while pretending not to notice his aggravated expression. This did not fail to make her own countenance twinge with annoyance; she thought she had made it clear she had done her best for him. Neji appeared to either not believe she had even tired or dismissed her ability to convince the Hokage to do anything in the first place. If it was the latter he must have failed to notice she had just gotten an S-Class criminal out on dinner parole. Doubting her abilities sure wasn't going to win him any further favours. Then again, to be fair, he did seem to have rather a fondness for looking unhappy indicating his frown may have something to do with the weather rather than herself.

She sighed. At least he was compliant enough to do as she told him, although, it was likely his conformity was a direct result of his obedience to the Hokage not her. Realising she had left him a fair distance behind she beckoned once again and she watched as, with a roll of his eyes, he approached her.

They had been creeping in this manner for quite some time as they progressively neared the hospital room Sasuke occupied. She peered around the final corner leading to room 33 and strained her ears for sounds of fighting. It was completely silent until Neji reached her position.

"I thought you were getting Ramen, not going on some sort of a low profile stealth mission," He breathed from close behind her still sounding acutely irritated.

"And yet you too are whispering," She shot back instantly.

"Just doing what I'm told," He hissed wryly.

"Oh," Sakura laughed quietly still glancing around the empty hall "If it's that easy…"


"Neji, I 'order' you to no longer rely on sarcasm or insults to respond to everything I say... and smile more, you frighten people looking around like that."

She didn't turn around to look at him but she liked to think, as inferred by his silence, that he had a defeated expression and smirked in victory anyway.

"Ready to move on?" There was still no response and annoyed, Sakura turned to look at her companion. He was nodding. "Speech escaping you Neji?"

"Not quite, speech complying to your demands however, yes," He finished with a forced smile that ironically, dripped of sarcasm in itself.

"Keep on trying then," She said after giving him a long analytical stare. This time she heard him sigh peevishly as she turned away "I'm going in."

There was a long pause as (Sakura assumed) Neji formed a response.


Pushing her stubborn escort from her mind Sakura found herself facing the door of the room Sasuke was being forced to occupy. Resting one hand lightly on the handle she listened for sounds of violent conflict within. Surprisingly, she was met with complete silence and toyed with the idea that maybe they'd killed each other. With a moments more hesitation she opened the door and took a tentative step inside.

Naruto sat in the single plastic chair that occupied the room, slumped and arms folded with an expression of aggravation. Sasuke stood with his back to the door, staring out the window also with his arms folded. Neither made any indication they had even noted her entrance into the room.

"What? No blood or anything?"

Still there was no reaction. Well, Sakura could have sworn Naruto's black expression impossibly darkened a little more but otherwise she was met with no response. Feeling distinctly uncomfortable with her companions Sakura cleared her throat obviously and tried again.

"Naruto? Ramen?" She tentatively questioned. Almost comically, Naruto leapt upright and beamed at her. She stood aside and gestured for him to leave, trailing behind him but pausing to glance over her shoulder at the still unmoving figure in the window. "You can come too Sasuke."

He didn't respond but when she had joined Naruto (and Neji who she had, with guilt, forgotten about again) he was close behind looking completely impartial. It wasn't like she had just done him a huge favour or anything.

"Neji will keep you company for a while Sasuke," She told him light heartedly still desperately trying to lighten the mood. Naruto at least was looking pleased at the thought of his upcoming lunch and she latched onto his arm so she could communicate quietly at close range as they walked.

She watched Neji and Sasuke walk in front of them for a while, the latter facing stiffly forward and Neji looking like the only kind of company he wished to provide Sasuke with involved the prisoners death.

"So," She started quietly to make sure she had her friend's attention "The hospital is looking quite remarkably undamaged. What happened, change your mind about fighting?"

"He just stood there," Naruto answered just as quietly but audibly grinding his teeth "I hit him a few times, not enough to do any real damage and he didn't even blink."

"And this obviously bothers you?"

"Well what is he trying to say? By just ignoring me?" He asked her (sounding so pathetic she motherly patted his arm in the pause it took her to gather a response).

"Maybe it's some kind of a warped Sasuke style apology?" Naruto let out a quiet chuckle and she smiled in response "Besides, a bit of Ramen should perk him up."

"How did you manage that anyway?"

"Ohhh, well, I can't take all the credit. I guess with you and Neji here Tsunade considers him as secure as ever. If he really wanted to escape he could anyway."

"Which he hasn't yet. He's being awfully compliant."

"I guess he wanted to see you again,"

"Oh yeah, he couldn't wait for me to arrive so he could stand and stare blankly at the wall. He really missed me I can tell," Naruto finished his rant with a small dismissive flick of his hand in Sasuke's direction.

"I haven't gotten much more out of him don't worry. I guess it was Neji he really wanted to see, look at how well they're getting along!" Sakura gushed in false brightness as Naruto laughed properly this time.

Apart from, the routine glances from Neji, the two men seemed determined to pretend the other wasn't there. It was probably fortunate the Ichiraku was in view already. Sakura used her bag to claim the left most stool closest to the wall before grabbing Neji's arm (he was eyeing the counter with suspicion) and steering him to sit one seat down beside Naruto (who was already garbling out an order). Sasuke as a result was forced to sit beside her but he made no complaint and stared blankly at the menu on the far wall. Happy with the seating arrangement Sakura congratulated herself on her successful tactical movements.

Leaning on one elbow she twitched her menu from side to side and peered at her neighbour from the corner of her eye.

"What are you planning to eat Sasuke?" She asked him sweetly. His response was an aggravated glare. Feeling affronted Sakura turned away, frowning, and focused more carefully on her choices of food.

"Whatever you're having," the delayed response was gruff but she turned back to face him happily.

"Could be dangerous."

"I'll risk it."

There was a moment's silence in which they both listened to Naruto happily relating a part of his mission to an oddly attentive Neji (who she guessed was still trying to ignore the other man beside him). At least, she listened, but Sasuke gave no indication on what he was thinking. She placed her order, asking for two to save Sasuke the trouble himself.

"So, you didn't respond to Naruto's…welcome?" Sakura broached carefully.

"I'm sure you've already come to your own conclusions," He responded in such a manner she couldn't tell if this was an insult or a compliment. Knowing Sasuke it could just be a simple statement emotionless fact.

"I guess you…didn't have anything to say?"

"I justified my departure when I left."

"But Sasuke, you have to understand how much he missed you, we missed you," Sakura tried, noting with frustration that she already had tears forming in her eyes.

"You seem to have found other things to keep you entertained," He said jerking his head in Neji's direction with a smirk.

"Never mind about him!" She hissed angrily blinking "Naruto never stopped looking for you. Never doubted you would come back."

"Well he has been proven correct then, for a time," He replied still impassive but Sakura recognised a certain defensiveness in his tone.

"Then you have no doubt you will leave again?" Her voice she noted, had gone as blank as his.


"Then why are you telling me?"

"Because it is not in your power to prevent my…" He paused as the bowls of Ramen were placed before them, acknowledging Teuchi with a nod "To prevent my leaving. I do not believe you will tell Naruto of my intentions either. You were happy we didn't fight, I could tell. You worry too much. If he tried to stop me you know what the conflict would probably end with."

"Then why did you even bother coming back in the first place?"

"An error. Of judgment," He answered calmly before beginning to eat.

Shoving her bowl away, Sakura rose hastily and collected her jacket and bag up in her arms. Aware she had attracted the attention of the other two at the bench she leant close beside Sasuke's ear. He was still ignoring her actions and eating in false contentment.

"I was wrong about you," She hissed as furiously as she could manage before shoving his back. Unsurprisingly he was hardly moved. She glared at the other two for a moment, Naruto was giving Sasuke a malevolent look along the bench and Neji made an odd jerking movement to rise before eyeing Sasuke again and remaining seated.

She left them then, turning on her heel and marching rigidly in a direction that didn't lead to the hospital or her home.

A/N: Warning, unedited! I was just desperate to post. I'm so sorry for being so late with this. I really do intend to finish it one day; I've even sketched out the final chapter. Thank you for reading and to anyone who has stuck with this. Please leave a review, it would encourage me greatly :D.