NOTE: Aye. This fic contains my new couple obsession. I just HAD to write something…but nothing committable (a multi-chapter story). So I stuck with a happy one-shot:-D Unfortunately, it was SUPPOSED to be a lot funnier (hope it still is funny…) but it didn't turn out that way. You know how stories do that…you get vague ideas in your head, and then they just totally turn around! Anywho, enjoy:-D
PS: I know my knowledge of Naruto is slim compared to everyone else. I HAVE seen all the English-dub episodes so far (save two) but…I guess that just doesn't cut it in this section of the Anime. Dang…it was good enough for the Yu-Gi-Oh! department…. But anywho, I'm trying to keep as few "ninja facts" in here as possible, but it's still the same place! A little later in time, but same Konoha Village Hidden in the Leaves. But I apologize now if I get any real facts wrong. Or for any misspellings.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
The Little Seductress
"Remind me again why I let you talk me into this? Rather…dress me in this?"
"Because I'm your best friend, and as such, you know full well that I know what's best for you."
"Remind me when I told you that."
"…Remember that time-"
"That you're making up on the spot?"
"That's the one!"
Haruno Sakura plunged down onto her bed, sitting hunched on the edge of it. Ino had done it again. Sakura and said friend had been bored to death this ghastly humid and warm afternoon. There had been nothing at all to do. They were off work duty and no new missions had arisen lately that needed their attention.
They had the afternoon off, but nothing to do. How ironic.
That was, until Ino got the idea of "playing dress up, like they used to." Sakura was up for anything at that point. Besides: it was fun to dress like you never would in public and play with other people's hair. So that was just what they had done.
Sakura had picked out various assorted garments for Ino to put on, and Ino had come out of the bathroom not looking half bad. Ino had on a tiny, tiny black tank-top (it was more like a bra than anything) and a sheer peacock-blue sleeveless top to slip over it. Along with that, Sakura gave her friend elbow-length gloves that opened up halfway across her palm, and were also ebony colored.
Bedazzled, dark navy, slim-fitting jeans accompanied the tops, and a pair of black platforms was fit snugly over Ino's feet. Last, but not least, a blue choker was laid across her throat.
The medical ninja had then proceeded to doing her friend's hair. She had taken the sleek blonde locks out of its usual ponytail and used part of the hair to make a fancy, but taut bun. She stuck two hair-sticks in the bun, brushed out the rest of Ino's long hair, and announced the completion of her friend.
Ino nodded, satisfied with Sakura's attempt. Sakura had never been much of one for dressing up immodestly anyway. Ah well, she just had a lot to learn.
Then it was her turn.
Ino had thrown a sexy, red halter-top -cut low both in neckline and along her midriff- into Sakura's arms, demanding that she put it on. She was also forced into a straight miniskirt and some knee-high, high-heeled boots. To make Sakura feel a little better about herself, the blonde allowed her to wear a decorative scarf around her waist and a sweet emerald necklace.
As for her hair, Ino had brushed it like there was no tomorrow, then used a bunch of different sprays to make Sakura's hair shine like the sun. Sakura didn't even know what most of the bottles were used for, let alone that they were all for hair.
Ino had pulled back most of the front of her friend's hair so that only a few of the long strawberry strands fell about framing her cheeks. She pinned up the rest in crimson barrettes. She took out Sakura's ninja headband and slipped on a tiny zigzag scarlet one instead.
Now, Sakura was ready for public viewing. Sakura had only laughed when Ino had told her this.
Ino blinked, "No…seriously…we're going out. …Like this. Why did you think we took all this time to dress up?"
Sakura gaped, "Wha-? B-But…Ino! I thought this was all just for fun! I wouldn't be caught dead outside wearing this! What would people think? …I don't wear this type of thing!" she gestured wildly at the revealing clothing.
Ino shrugged, "I've never worn this in my life, but I love it! So, I'm willing to let the world see my beauty," she spun around, smiling. She grabbed a handful of bracelets and shoved them on her wrists. "Just so my arms don't feel so bare…. I'm used to having something on them."
Sakura frowned. Of course Ino felt alright: the girl had far more on than she did! What games was she playing anyway?
Ino then tugged Sakura along by her wrists, grabbing some money on the way out. "Come on! Let's got that new deluxe ramen-sushi bar that just opened up! Something called…Ra-shi Ai or something…."
Sakura frowned, "But…it'll be crowded, won't it?"
"That's the point! We have to show off to the world!" Ino laughed. "Besides, I have to make you more outgoing. Being stuck in a hospital all the ding-dong day is not my idea of a social life. …I doubt that most of the people in there can even talk."
Eventually, after running just down the street to the new restaurant, they were ushered in and the two took a seat at one of the small tables that were small enough to just seat them. Inside the restaurant, booths lined the walls, which were half windows themselves. Fans hung from the ceiling, whirring constantly. Tables for two dotted the center of the restaurant. Up at the counter, a cashier stood, cleaning some glasses for the bar that also resided there.
"This place is great!" Ino smiled, "Have you ever been here, Sakura?"
"No, not yet," Sakura looked around self-consciously. Not many people were here, thank goodness. She was still not comfortable being out in public the way she was dressed.
Ino frowned, "Are you still worrying over what you're wearing? Geez, Sakura, lighten up! People have worn worse. Some people wear next-to-nothing."
"I feel like I'm wearing that," Sakura bit her lip.
"What are you talking about?" Ino put her hands out, "You're covered from head to toe! Granted a bit is showing, yes…but it's all fine!"
"Die," Sakura frowned, not relaxing in the least.
A waitress soon came by to take their orders. Sakura ordered a small case of sushi (she had had far too much ramen lately, courtesy of Naruto, who didn't believe in such a thing as "too much ramen") while Ino took on a bowl of said noodles. The food was indeed delicious: something the place could actually brag about.
Sakura finished off her food before her friend did and took to watching who came into the establishment. Night was beginning to fall, and soon, more and more people were waltzing into the joint. Most of them were couples out on dates, or married men and women enjoying an anniversary, or a night off from watching over children.
Sakura sighed audibly, putting her head in her hand. This got Ino's attention.
"What's wrong?" she asked, putting down her chopsticks. "I haven't heard a sigh like that…in a long time."
"There's a difference in my sighs?" Sakura's head lifted.
"Yes," Ino recounted, holding up her fingers, "There's the "I-don't-like-this" sigh, that you used this afternoon; the "Whatever" sigh; and the "I-wish-I-had-a-guy" sigh, which you just used. Of course, that's only a couple of them, but the point is-!" Ino put her hands on the table, "You want a guy…and you need one."
Sakura felt her face growing warm, "I never said-"
"But you were thinking it!" Ino wagged her finger at her friend, "Don't try to tell me otherwise! Besides…tonight, I'm going to help you! Not only do you need a guy…but you need to be more "outgoing," if you catch my drift," she elbowed her friend. "Eh?"
Sakura upper lip raised a bit as she looked pretty skeptical, "Ino…I don't think this is such a good idea. When you get that scary look in your eye…it makes me feel…like you're in my mind or something," Sakura slowly felt her scalp, as if she could feel Ino's presence inside her brain, ravaging the poor place.
"Hey, be happy I haven't passed out, or you might really have something to worry about," Ino winked. Sakura lowered her hands. "So, are you going to listen to my brilliant proposition?"
Sakura gulped, "I'll listen…but I won't guarantee-"
Before she could say the rest of her sentence, Ino had cut her off expertly, so that she could truthfully say that Sakura had never said, "I won't guarantee agreeing to it…" as she usually tended to say (given that Ino hadn't already cut in by that time).
"Alright, here we go. I'm going to…wager twenty bucks," she held up a paper bill and placed it on the table. "You do the same."
"Okay!" Sakura jumped, rummaging in her pocket for a twenty. She grabbed one and placed it on top of Ino's money.
"Alright," Ino smirked knowingly. Oh no, Sakura whimpered inside, I know that smirk. …That's the smirk of a million demons descending upon me, all with the same little grin of mischief. …I'm going to embarrass myself to no end in the next few minutes.
"If you can accomplish the task I set at hand, I will let you have this here twenty. You can have yours back too. But if you fail to properly complete my little "mission," as one might call it, then I get the twenties. Understand?"
"…What's your mission?" I don't think I can back out of this one without losing twenty bucks off the spot.
Ino turned around quickly and then turned her head back to Sakura. She was pointing at the door. "The first, single, male –meaning he is escorting no date- who walks through that door is your target. Your job…is to woo him tonight. You will flirt as you have never flirted before. You will be the most conniving, seductive woman in this village for one night! And in the end, your goal is to have him kiss you. You can kiss him all you want to instigate it…but until he kisses you –on the lips!- that twenty is mine."
Ino sat back, folding her arms with a large, albeit complacent smile gracing her lips.
Sakura stared at her friend in horror. She was supposed to do what? And…what was the part about the kissing? …And the seductive flirting? …Say what!
"Ino…I can't! You know that! Besides, what if the "single" guy turns out to have a girlfriend? Or a fiancée? What if he's married!"
Ino just waved her hand, "Guys love it when girls come up of their own free will and flirt. They don't care if they're committed or not. Besides, you know as well as I do that some even pay for womanly company and they're already married."
Sakura grimaced, "You could have kept that out of the conversation."
"I know," she stuck out her tongue.
Sakura's stomach had a serious case of the butterflies. She was regretting having eaten fish. "Ino…I can't do this!" She had her reasons for wanting to back out. And it wasn't all because she was a chicken. She just…well…she had been thinking lately….
"Exactly!" Ino laughed, patting the twenties in the middle of the table, "Why do you think I make bets that I know I can win?"
Sakura suddenly felt a rush of anger. So in other words…she was predictable, eh?
As if her "Inner Sakura" had suddenly become her real persona, she exclaimed, "Oh yeah? You seem so sure of yourself. Well, I will do it! First single guy that comes in, right? Alright then…bring it!" Sakura clenched her fists up against her chest. Her emerald eyes were lit with a fire of passion and determination. She…could not lose! She would show that Ino-pig that she was a force to be reckoned with! She could so get a guy here to kiss her! She was pretty, right? And she was wearing un-Sakura-like (a.k.a far less conservative) clothes, so that took care of seductive looks! Yes…she would think of it only as an exercise!
She could do this!
"Double or nothing!" she slammed down another twenty, cackling mischievously.
Ino's eyes widened. …Was this…her Sakura?
Never mind! A chance to win forty bucks? She was in!
"Hya!" she slammed down another twenty on top of Sakura's money. "You're on! First guy! Ready: watch!"
The two suddenly froze and watched the doors to the restaurant as if they were trying to summon the power of Byakugan and stare straight through the threshold.
The doors opened.
The two girls watched anxiously.
A spiky head of blonde hair (which had grown longer over the years) jumped through the doorway excitingly, suddenly raising every head in the bar.
"Chya! Ramen-ramen, here I come!" he adjusted the ninja-band on his forehead and grinned like a fool.
Sakura's mouth hit the floor and Ino laughed hysterically. "GAH! I have to flirt with Naruto!"
Her life was over as she knew it.
But on the bright side…if he still has that obvious crush on me, this will be all too easy, Sakura rubbed her hands, sensing a bright side to this.
Ino plugged her nose, feeling a snort coming on. "Hahah…you have to go woo Naruto now! See ya!" she snickered.
Naruto suddenly turned around, putting a hand on his hip and holding the door open, "Dang, what's takin' ya so long? Are you coming or not, Hinata?"
"Yes, yes," the pale-skinned, navy haired Hyuuga girl rushed inside. "I-I just thought I saw-"
"Yeah, yeah," Naruto grabbed her hand, "Those Byakugan really come in handy, don't they? But come on! The ramen is waiting!" he laughed, rushing them both to a booth in the far back.
Sakura suddenly let out the breath that she hadn't realized she was holding and put a hand over her fluttering heart. Oh thank the Lord…it's not Naruto. There is a God after all….
Ino snapped her fingers, "Darn, that would have been hilarious to see. But anyway…let's see who your real victim is," she giggled manically.
Sakura watched the doors intently.
Wow…so much for a boring day of doing nothing. This may be an important night if all goes well…. Yet there was this nagging feeling in her heart. Lately, she had been…pondering over a certain issue. As if pondering was the right word for it. For all she knew, she was in denial. There had been a certain man on her mind, lately. Someone that she had not seen in quite a while, but had become quite friendly with….
A bandaged hand was viewable from their area, and both girls held their breath.
There are a lot of guys with bandaged arms…I think…Sakura started shaking, but the one I'm pretty sure the gods have put me against…oh Lord…is it Rock Lee? Lord in Heaven help me….
The man walked through the doors and let them shut. He was alone.
Ino fell out of her seat.
Sakura's eyes widened and she felt her heart stop.
H-Hyuuga N-Neji! T-That's not possible! Am I…that…cursed?
Or am I blessed?
Ino regained her composure and stared back and forth between Neji and Sakura. Neji seemed to be looking for something….
"You…are one lucky billboard-brow."
I'm going…to die…right here…and now.
"I-Ino…maybe the next guy? You know Neji…he's not exactly-"
Ino took up the eighty dollars and started leafing through it. "Get going Haruno…. You know the rules. Otherwise…I get forty bucks more than I had just ten minutes ago."
…She could so not do this.
Hyuuga Neji was known for being serious, sophisticated, and sturdy. He did not show emotion. If he ever showed what he was feeling, it was either anger, cockiness, or slight curiosity.
Sakura knew she had lost the bet.
She knew she should just go home, lie down, and cry for her large monetary loss.
But that egotistical part of her said: Gosh-darn it, woman! If you could get Rock Lee –the weirdest they come- to fall for you (God knows how), by golly, you can get that ice cube to just kiss you!
Sakura took a deep breath and lightly pounded the table with her fist.
She could do it. She just had to keep telling herself that.
I'm still dead though….
"Alright then," she stood up. Her knees were shaking something terrible.
Ino smiled, "Look on the bright side."
"What bright side? The part where he takes the tiniest bit of mercy on me after he's cleared off my head and decides that that's enough amputation?" Sakura scowled at her "best friend."
Ino rolled your eyes, "At least it's a guy you know. Think about what would have happened if it had been a completely random stranger off the street."
She had a point. And then the other point that Ino knew nothing about….
…But it was still Hyuuga Neji she had to flirt with.
And be seductive with.
And get to kiss her.
Sakura looked at the money Ino was fanning herself with, "Ino…could I just say goodbye to them? They were good to me, those twenties. They made me feel…like I had something in my pocket."
"Get going," Ino shoved her away.
Sakura stumbled a few steps in the (she now realized) ridiculously high shoes she was wearing.
Neji, by this time, had taken his seat at one of the small tables in one of the corners away from the crowds. In fact, he was sitting all by his lonesome when Sakura had scanned the room for him.
She took a deep breath, made sure her clothes were all straightened out, then proceeded to walk, swinging her hips as much as possible without looking like an idiot, over to his area.
He was staring moodily at the center of the table and only looked up when her shadow fell over it.
"Hi there, Neji-san," Sakura batted her eyes prettily. "I saw you sitting here alone and figured you could use some company. Is someone sitting here?" she asked gesturing to the empty seat across from him. He merely shook his head. She smiled, "Good then." She sat down and put her chin on her folded hands as she looked at him from across the table. "So how are you these days, Neji-kun," she emphasized the playful suffix.
He blinked once, somewhat taken aback by the sudden change, but answered monotonously, "Fine. I just returned from a mission about an hour ago."
"Oh!" Sakura looked surprised, "And how was it? You're Captain of the ANBU team right? Was there an assassination involved?"
The ends of his lips turned upwards slightly at the remark, "One might say that. Another might call it merely a…grave encounter."
Sakura giggled, "You're so funny, Neji."
He looked truly startled for a moment by this comment. "Excuse me?"
She picked her head up and looked sorry, "Oh…did I offend you? I didn't mean to, but-"
"No, no…it's alright," Neji put a hand up slowly, "I'm just not used to comments like that about me."
Sakura crossed her arms, falling a bit out of her "seductress" mode and going back into "Sakura-mode," "Well why not? I've heard quite a few wisecracks from you at times! Even Tenten made a point to tell me one hilariously funny comment you said. I had to sit through an hour of tales to understand the situation before she told me what you said, which had been the whole point of the story," Sakura shook her head laughing. "It was pretty funny…but a whole hour," she groaned. "That was a long afternoon."
Neji gave a tiny chuckle, "Yes, Tenten has a way with stringing her words so that they come out longer than need be."
Sakura just nodded in agreement. She then asked something that came to mind, "So…no injuries this time? That's good," she giggled lightly, "I'm not on duty to be able to take care of you, as I tend to do," she laughed. "Not that you get hurt much but…there are times…" she trailed off. "Not that I mind of course. It's terrible to say, but sometimes I'm happy to see you there. Not only does it mean that you've survived –if a bit injured- but I actually get to see you and take care of you!"
The white-eyed boy blinked, a little out of place, but continued soon, falling back into his proud manner, "The mission was actually pretty simple. The defenses surrounding the top-man were pretty low and very amateur. We had few casualties." Sakura merely answered positively and then looked at their surroundings. They fell into a slightly uneasy silence. This gave Sakura a chance to glance over the boy. She noticed something that had bypassed her when she first saw him.
"What's this?" she asked innocently, now making a point to look over him so that he knew she was staring. "You've changed your look for once? Your hair is actually in a real ponytail, and you're not in your usual training attire."
Neji looked away, obviously uncomfortable about the subject. Sakura smiled. Perfect. "Yes, well…I just decided to try something new, I supp-"
"It looks good," Sakura stared him in his crystal-clear eyes. He started, shocked by the sound of her voice.
Inside her head, Sakura was both congratulating herself on a job well done, and scared out of her wits as well. Was that…was that my voice? Did I just say that…how I think I said it? That sounded way too friendly…. Which I guess is what I'm going for!
To her surprise, she saw a small hint of pink coloring his cheeks, "You…think so, do you?"
Sakura pretended to think for a moment, "Mmm…no."
Neji looked a tad confused –or was it downcast?- at the admittance, but Sakura suddenly blurted out:
"I think it's hot."
She said it with such a spicy flare to the last word, that if ever there was a time when Neji should have had a nosebleed, it would have been that time.
But Sakura was only getting started. She was actually having fun tormenting poor Neji. Still, she knew she had to lay it on a lot thicker if she was every going to get a kiss out of him. I should probably stop being so verbal…and start getting physical.
Oooh, relish the thought.
The cook suddenly came by with Neji's sushi and placed it in front of him. Neji thanked him politely. The man laid down an extra pair of chopsticks. "For the little lady," he smiled knowingly, and then made his way back to the kitchen.
Perfect timing. And chopsticks too! What a grand idea!
Neji pulled apart his chopsticks and proceeded to daintily eating his sushi, which comprised of fish, squid, and shrimp. Sakura eyed the shrimp with a tasteful and appreciative eye. Not only was shrimp one of her favorite foods, but it also gave her a grand idea.
To her surprise, Neji seemed to be picking around the shrimp. Sakura looked a bit surprised, "Don't you like shrimp, Neji?"
"It's not essentially my favorite fish," he eyed with a tad of distaste, "I'll eat it…but I'm not fond of it."
"Allow me to get rid of it for you," Sakura picked up the chopsticks, "Well…if you'll let me."
"Have at it." Sakura beamed. She opened her chopsticks and reached over with them and plucked a saucy shrimp out of the pile. She slowly put it in her mouth and bit it in half, her glossy pink lips succulently running across the little piece of sushi. After chewing slowly and lowering her eyelids in pleasure, she ran her tongue on the underside of the last bit, tasting it first. The rest of the shrimp landed in her mouth and she twirled the chopsticks around her lips in a seductive manner, sucking on the very tips, as she looked pointedly at Neji.
"The shrimp is delicious," she murmured. Neji just stared at her, dumbstruck. Sakura smiled and reached for another shrimp. The plan is working flawlessly….
Neji tore his gaze away from her and proceeded to finishing his dinner. However, as Sakura continued to eat, she noticed the non-too-subtle glances that she received from the boy.
Soon, Sakura had finished off the small portion of shrimp and had run out of ideas. Neji was still eating somewhat slowly and avoiding looking at her.
Sakura pouted a bit. Well, so much for that. Now he was frightened of her company. Perhaps she had laid it on a little too thickly.
"So…I see I'm not the only one to have gone through some wardrobe changes…" Neji spoke up suddenly.
Sakura was caught off guard. She blushed and stuttered, "Ah…yes…this. It's just a little something I put together…. I don't usually wear it mu-"
Neji smirked, ""I think it's hot.""
Sakura's blush deepened to dark crimson. She could feel the heat radiating from her face. Wasn't she supposed to be the one seducing him? "Well, t-that's very kind, but-"
"So how does it feel to have the shoe on the other foot?" Neji sat back, finishing his dinner. He folded his arms, waiting.
Sakura looked around wildly, "W-What do you mean?"
Neji laughed, "I don't know what you're trying to pull…but the Haruno Sakura I know doesn't flirt openly with men."
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Sakura spewed out quickly. What a great time to lose her cool!
Neji leaned over the table, holding her chin in his hand, pulling her face close, "I don't know what's come over you…or why you're doing this, but-" he glanced past her, seeing someone staring.
The blonde quickly averted her head, hiding something green from view. Neji frowned and looked back at Sakura, who was beginning to tremble.
His pearl-like eyes bored into her emerald ones, "So what's going on, Sakura-kun? A little bet to have some fun tonight? Or are you "taking pity" on a single man?"
"It's n-nothing like that!" Sakura felt tears coming on. She hated when people got angry at her. And especially seeing Neji this enraged. He wasn't even pulling out the kunai yet.
But she knew she was screwed over. She had known that from the start. Neji was far too smart to fall for a ploy like that. How could she try to outwit an all-seeing ninja like him?
I-I'm SO stupid!
"I need a drink!" she suddenly tore away from his grasp, stumbling over to the bar. Neji felt something hit his finger.
It was a teardrop.
Ino stared in horror. That was…not exactly how things were supposed to work out. Sure, she was now entitled to some new additions to her bank-account, but getting money at the cost of Sakura's happiness?
That wasn't right.
Sakura was a basket-case at the moment. Ino could tell that from even this far off. Her cherry-haired friend had run from the table in tears to the far side of the bar, immediately throwing down money for a strong drink.
Ino had half a mind to go tell off Neji for making a girl cry.
She had another half a mind to go comfort Sakura in her emotional breakdown.
For some reason, she had this itching feeling that there was something going on here that had to be read in-between the lines.
Ino stood up, ready to go to her friend, when a hand landed on her shoulder. Ino turned around.
"Tenten! What are you doing here?"
Tenten looked back and forth at Neji and Sakura, "Ino…what's going on here? What…did Neji do to Sakura…?" she asked very hesitantly.
"I'll explain later, but I should go see Sakura-"
"Ino," Tenten growled out, shoving her back into her seat. Tenten whipped out Sakura's old chair and sat down across from the girl, "Tell me what's going on."
Ino stared. Since when had Tenten gotten such a temper? "Tenten, it'll have to wait-"
"What were they doing together!" Tenten hissed out angrily.
Ino jumped, almost falling out of her chair. "Alright, alright! Sakura-and-I-made-a-bet-that-the-first-single-looking-man-that-walked-through-the-door-would-be-the-one-she-had-to-seduce-and-get-to-kiss-her-tonight-and-it-just-happened-to-be-Neji!" she rolled out all in one breath.
Tenten furrowed her eyebrows, "Come again?"
Ino sighed, greatly exasperated, "To put it short: I bet Sakura into getting Neji to kiss her tonight through seduction. Alright?"
"You WHAT!" Tenten flew up from the seat, slamming her hands on the table. Ino looked around, surprised that the whole restaurant wasn't staring at them. Tenten was making quite the racket….
"Look, I know it's Neji and all –human ice-cube some call him- but she had no choice! It was part of the rules of the bet. He was just the lucky guy to walk through the doors-"
"Lucky? I wouldn't call it lucky!" Tenten heaved, "Sakura should just be lucky he hasn't ravaged her yet!"
Ino blanched, "WHAT! Girl, what are you talking about? Neji isn't that angry! Sure, he did make Sakura cry –my guess is he found out about the ploy- but-"
"He found out! Oh that makes it even better!" Tenten threw her hands up in the air. "And…wait, what do you mean "angry?""
Ino looked at her as if she was insane, "Well, there was the chance of course that Neji would get angry if he found out. And you said she's lucky not to be ravaged-"
Tenten grabbed Ino's shoulder and shook the living daylights out of her, "He wouldn't ravage her because he's angry, dimwit! If she was seducing him…I'm surprised he hasn't cracked by now!"
"Tenten, what are you talking about!" Ino stood up to face her.
"What do you think I'm talking about? Why do you think I'm here? I'm his counselor!" Tenten rolled her eyes.
"…Neji needs a counselor? I didn't know he was that deranged," Ino took on a puzzled look.
"No, you idiot! He's not deranged! He's sick!"
"Yeah…that's what I meant: mentally ill," Ino rolled her hands, trying to get the point across to Tenten.
"NO!" Tenten let go of Ino, spinning around and putting her face in her hands. "You just don't get it!"
"Get what? You won't explain anything! It takes you hours to get your point across!"
Tenten stomped her foot on the ground, pointing straight at Neji, who was busy staring after a distraught Sakura, and whispered only loud enough for Ino to hear, "He's in love with Sakura!"
"Oooh," Ino answered slowly. "He's…in love…with…" her eyes dulled. No. Way.
"Now do you understand?" Tenten's chest rose and feel with her many deep breaths.
Ino just stared at the ground in utter shock. It was unbelievable. Hyuuga Neji was in love with Haruno Sakura?
"Oh my God, what have I done?" Ino whispered. If Neji found out that Sakura was just doing that for a bet…his heart will be shredded! Ah! What have I done?
"Exactly," Tenten frowned heavily, seeing Ino take light of the situation. The blonde was currently in hysterics. "So what do you plan to do about this? Granted Sakura probably doesn't return his feelings-"
"Ah…ah…" Ino looked around wildly. She suddenly pulled something from her pocket and slammed it down on the table, "I bet you five bucks he stays there staring like an idiot!"
Tenten stared at her, abhorred, "We're in a situation like this, and all you can think to do is make bets?"
Tenten groaned and rolled her eyes. "Fine," she threw in some money, "Five bucks says he goes over there to comfort her."
Ino suddenly laughed softly, "You really believe he'll do that? When Sakura's emotional…no one gets in her way. Especially not the person who caused her breakdown."
Tenten smirked, "And you obviously don't know the extent of Neji's feelings."
Ino raised her eyebrows, "Do tell."
Tenten took a deep breath, "He told me enough to write a five-hundred page novel. And trust me: I've heard every. Single. Word."
Sakura drowned the glass of champagne, demanding one more, for pity's sake. Salty tears rolled down her cheeks and she tried to wipe them away hastily, not wanting anyone to see her cry.
Great…I've just made him mad at me for eternity. Neji will never let me forget this. I'll be hunted down and killed while I'm asleep. That's only if he's merciful. He'd probably rather take me out while I'm conscious and able to see myself split in half.
So now…the man who's been in my mind so recently…the one who has my growing…conflicting… affections…hates me.
Why do I say "conflicting?" I know I'm in denial. I'd better just say it: I love him. I know how much I enjoy seeing him around. At the hospital, I hope he doesn't appear there, injured, but at the same time, I also love being the one to tend to him. It's just a little extra time that we get to spend together.
This has been going on for a few years now…. I don't know when I started being attracted to him: it just happened. After Sasuke left…it was like a fog had lifted from my mind, allowing me to see a clearer world.
And he just happened to be the first person I saw in my new world. Next thing I knew…we were talking more and becoming more friendly. I suppose that's how it gets when you're older. We rarely talked when we were in our teens, but things change as adulthood nears. Maturity: that's probably it. Except in Naruto's case maybe…but he's had some improvements.
But that's not really the point, is it? The point is: I've spent all this time trying to get to know him better –become friends- and now he hates me. The man who…holds my heart…hates me. And it's all because of some stupid bet.
I should never have accepted that. What's losing money compared to completely losing my dreams of ever having him notice me for…for who I am! I acted like such a fool tonight. If I ever want any guy to notice me…I need to be myself. Not some seductive freak.
Sakura laid her head in her arms on the counter-top, quietly crying to herself. She heard her second glass of champagne hit the bar softly, but she did not drink it. Not yet. She was too comfortable this way.
A hand fell onto her shoulder. Ino…thanks, Sakura sighed, staying as she was a moment longer. She then looked up. "Thanks I-" she froze, the last of her tears falling down her cheeks.
A soft thumb wiped them away.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to…hurt you."
"N-Neji," Sakura stuttered, drawing back slightly. He stayed her with a firm, but gentle grip on her shoulder. Her lip quivered as she stared into those special eyes of his. She had to bring herself to say it. She suddenly flew into his arms and started sobbing, "I'm so sorry, Neji! That must have looked terrible back there! I didn't mean…I just…Ino and her stupid bets!"
Neji glanced out of the corner of his eye at Ino, who shoved something down out of his sight before waving to him cheerfully.
A little too cheerfully.
And if he wanted to see past the table, that would be simple too, but he would humor her.
Neji turned back to a still-sobbing Sakura. "I figured she had something to do with this. A bet, you say? Do tell."
She told him all about it. Of course, she had buried her face in his shoulder, making all of her answer muffled.
"I'm afraid I couldn't understand you, sorry," Neji sighed, internally.
Sakura pulled back, wiping away her tears, "I'm sorry…for crying on you. God, I'm such an idiot," she turned away. She took a deep breath and began again. "As for that bet…."
Tenten rubbed her two fives together, smirking at her comrade. "Now do you understand?"
Ino pouted, "Oh, that just bites to no end!" She looked back to the two. Sakura was staring off into the bar, and Neji was watching her intently. She smirked, "But…I betcha he doesn't kiss her, despite those so-called affections."
Tenten's eyebrows rose, "Wasn't that your original bet with Sakura?"
"Yes. And I'd be a hypocrite if I bet with you that he would kiss her. Besides…I still don't believe she has it in her to allow it…what with all that just happened."
"You're insane," Tenten took out her wallet. She placed some money down, "Monsieur Twenty says otherwise."
Ino's eyes lit up, "Now we're talking," she took out her own money. She slipped her own bills next to Tenten's, "Mister Twenty has some friends."
"Rivals, more like."
"Hey…what are you two doing?" The girls froze, and turned their faces up to the newcomers. "Well?" the frizzy blonde frowned. The pale form next to him clung onto his arm.
"Naruto…we shouldn't interrupt-"
"You guys are betting!" Naruto's azure orbs brightened, "On what? What? I wanna bet too!" he fumbled around for his wallet.
"Naruto…you spent all your money on ramen," Hinata quietly reminded him. "Besides…you don't even know what you're betting on."
Ino gladly filled them in. She jerked her thumb towards the bar, "It's a bet on whether Neji kisses Sakura or not. Wanna join?"
Hinata almost fainted from shock, "Y-You know a-about all that?"
Tenten blinked, "Yeah…Neji's kept me…pretty informed for a while. How did you find out?"
"I'm his c-cousin! O-Of course he tells me these things!"
"What are we talking about?" Naruto suddenly intruded. "I just remembered I spent all my money on ramen…."
"She just told you that, you bum-head!" Ino socked him on the noggin.
"Owowow!" Naruto held his hurt brain, "Careful! There's not enough of my brain to begin with! You'll kill it off soon if you keep doing that!" At least it's not as hard as Sakura's whams….
Hinata gulped, "Naruto, we should leave…."
"No! I want to bet on whatever they're betting on!" Naruto looked all over his person for something to bet with. "Hey, how about my headband?" he unstrapped it, holding it before the girls.
"Sorry," Ino crossed her arms, shaking her head, "Only mullah is allowed at this table. And to fill you in…again…we're betting on whether or not Neji kisses Sakura," she jerked her head back towards the bar.
Naruto's mouth fell open, "WHA'? Them? Kiss? That's the most insane thing I've ever heard!" Naruto laughed hysterically. "Oh! Oh, that's rich," he doubled over, still cackling, while holding his cramped stomach. "Oh Lord…can't breathe…hehe!"
Hinata slowly brought her boyfriend back up and fanned his red face. Naruto suddenly rounded on her, putting out his hand, "Can I borrow some money, Hinata?"
Hinata recoiled, "I t-thought you said this bet was s-stupid!"
"It is!" Naruto took the money Hinata had held out, nonetheless. He slammed it down on top of the other two girl's, "Because Sakura is going to kiss him first!"
"So that's the story. Pretty stupid, huh?" Sakura gave a weak half-laugh. "I mean…I knew from the start I wasn't cut out for that type of thing…but she talked me into it…sort of. More like she took my money and wouldn't give it back."
Neji's face remained stone-like. He turned his face from her, still serious, and spoke quietly, "So it was all just a ploy then?"
Sakura tensed up, rubbing her fingers against one another. She gulped. Of course he just had to ask that question. "Well…."
Neji glanced at her and raised an eyebrow, "Well, what?"
Sakura was pinching her index finger so hard that the tip of it was quickly becoming pale, "W-Well…. W-When Ino laid down the b-bet…I was a bit…worried because…well…it could have been…anyone…you know? And then I got a-angry with her and I sort of…looked over the consequences. Naruto walked t-through the door first, and I just about d-died, though if it had to be him, it was better that some stranger. But at the same time…it was Naruto," Sakura made a sickly face. Neji chuckled.
"I can agree with you there."
"Luckily, he came through with Hinata," Sakura sighed. "But then, I was back to worrying all over again. Let' just say…when I saw that it was you who came through the doors," her face became highly flushed, and she took a drink of champagne, hoping he would thing it was just from the alcohol, "I…well…I was…very…relieved."
Neji narrowed his eyes, "I don't understand."
"You and I are friends, are we not? Surely not as much as you and Naruto, but it is generally the same relationship, yes? So why would it be more "relieving" to have me come through the door, rather than Naruto? I would almost think he would have been the better choice. You probably could have won this…bet," he said the word a bit irascibly, and Sakura cringed at the harshness of it, "far easier then."
Sakura suddenly slammed her hands down on the bar, "Don't you get it, you thickheaded man?" she turned her blazing jade eyes upon him, "I like you! That's why! Not just as a friend…but I really like you! And if I don't kiss you this instant, so help us God!" She suddenly reached out, placing her hands along his jaw, and leaned in, pressing her lips against his own.
So shocked he was, at first, that Neji could only let himself be kissed. But slowly, he reached up to caress her cheek with one hand and placed the other on her back, nudging her forward from the stool and into his lap.
Naruto danced around wildly, waving the green bills in his hands, "I won, I won, I won! Haha! In your faces!" he laughed wildly, still prancing like an idiot.
Tenten sighed exhaustedly and Ino let her head hit the table. "We lost to him," the both resounded pathetically."
Hinata tapped Naruto on the shoulder. He stopped mid-leap and turned back to look at her. "Yes?"
Hinata held out her hand, "My money?" He handed back her bill. Her hand was still out.
Naruto frowned, "What do you want now? I gave you back your money!"
"I think I deserve half of the overall share," Hinata nodded, speaking quite boldly for herself, "After all, it was my money. And besides…I was behind you the entire time," she winked.
Naruto sighed and handed her one of the tens Ino had bet. He smirked and pulled her into a one-armed hug, "You sly fox. You know you can get anything out of me."
"Hehe," she giggled, "I am dating one, am I not?"
"Whoa!" Tenten suddenly stood up from the table, "Would you look at that!"
Ino's head shot up and she spun around, "Holy crap! They're making out like there's no tomorrow!"
Hinata hid her face in her hands, but just had to peek between her fingers. Naruto smiled through an open mouth, "Way-to-go!" he laughed. "He's totally going to like…chew her face off!"
The table grew silent.
Ino slammed her hand down in the center of the table, "Five bucks that Neji totally overpowers her!"
"Ten that Sakura comes back into control!" Naruto put down his newly won money.
"Fifteen that they match out evenly!" Tenten threw her bet in. They were getting to shouting now, drawing in the attention of some nearby citizens.
"Twenty that Neji goes all out…ah…hands under her shirt –or what there is of it- and everything!" Hinata frantically threw a twenty at the table, which fluttered down slowly to land on top.
The table stared at her.
Hinata blushed and looked away, red really blossoming across her cheeks, "I…read his journal sometimes…."
Three mouths fell open.
"All five-hundred pages."
Tenten almost keeled over.
Neji slid his hands up and down Sakura's spine, enjoying the way she gasped as he did it. He always loved being in control, even in romantic situations like this.
Sakura refused to let him get the upper hand, however. She was determined to show him that she could be just as sneaky. She ran her tongue along his lips, and he parted them almost automatically. Taking that as her leave, she slid her tongue into his mouth, making sure to taste every part of it.
He continued to kiss her mercilessly, and neither thought about surfacing for air anytime soon.
Sakura pulled down his ponytail so that his sleek, chocolate hair cascaded down his back and over his shoulders. She entwined her fingers in it, enjoying the way the silk just wrapped around her fingers.
Neji's own hands were busy crawling up her abdomen, until they slipped under her top. He went as high as he dared, and was so "appropriate" in a public place.
Of course, where they were was s far from their minds as it could possibly be. Not that anyone cared. The bartender was used to seeing couples make-out at this hour and on the stools. It was a natural part of drinking. Though he could swear the young man had had nothing inducing.
Relenting, they were forced to pause a moment, to take a breath. Sakura's chest rose high as she took deep breaths to calm her madly beating heart.
Neji remained calm looking, but his insides were in turmoil. His whole body was on fire with the passion that had emanated from the two, and they were no where near finished.
He brought his lips to her ear and whispered softly, tickling her, "I have no choice to believe you, when you said you had to kiss me now, or so help us God." A small, but deep chuckle escaped his throat. "I mean…are you trying to get me to force you into my bed tonight?"
Sakura blushed madly, but rested her chin on his shoulder, letting her fingers dance across his back, "You've got it that bad, huh?"
"I've had it "that bad" for a while now."
Sakura's eyes widened, "Really? I would never have known…."
"I had help keeping my emotions in check. Otherwise, you may well have found yourself helplessly ravaged one night."
Sakura pulled back, staring into his glinting eyes with her own wide ones, "My, what a confession! Well," she teasingly nipped his lip, "perhaps I wouldn't have minded so much…."
The two stayed, looking at each other for a few moments, as if to confirm that this truly was what they wanted.
"Yes, well…" Sakura suddenly continued the conversation, more or less, "now that I've kissed you…I'd rather appreciate the favor returned."
"You also want your money back."
The two pulled back and Sakura placed her forehead against his, "You know me too well."
Neji smirked, "That's what happens…when you love someone."
Hinata raked in the large pile of money from the table and counted it. Eighty dollars in one bet! And it was her first time too. A small smile crossed her face as she counted, and it slowly became more like a smirk.
"Oh Hinata, stop that! You remind me of Neji when you do that…" Ino put her hands over her head.
Naruto sighed, "Geez, it's not like you're poor or anything either."
Tenten pouted, her head resting on her upraised hand, "They were evenly matched! I still say I should get some of that."
"But you went and lost at Jan-Ken-Pon when trying to decide who won it all," Naruto snickered.
"I don't find that very fair! I mean, it was a game of chance!"
"Hello," Ino knocked on her head, "So is betting!"
Naruto looked past Ino and sighed, "There they go again. 'Cept Neji kissed her this time."
Ino's face paled.
Sakura slowly pulled back from Neji, "What do you suppose we continue this another time and another place? It's getting rather…late."
"Unfortunately, yes," Neji fingered some of her rose locks as he caressed her cheek. Sakura gave him a quick peck on the lips.
"I have to see someone about some money…" Sakura smiled wickedly, slipping off the stool, while putting down the money for her drink.
Neji grinned as well, "Allow me to accompany you."
"So, Tenten, what was all that about "counseling" Neji anyway?" Ino frowned, looking for answers.
Tenten giggled, "Well, it seems like I'm out of a job now. But anyway, Neji was just about to crack because he was so head-over-heels for Sakura. He sought me out one day, knowing I had such knowledge and expertise in that field-"
"Since when?" Ino scowled at her.
Tenten narrowed her eyes, "Shut up. The point it, he came to me, his good friend and old teammate-"
"Why didn't he go to Rock Lee?" Naruto butted in, "I mean…that guy's always spurtin' off about the joys of youth and love and crap!"
The table stared at him, waiting.
Hinata nudged him in the ribs lightly, "I think that's just why…."
Understanding dawned upon his poor brain, "Oh! Oh, I get it…yeah…Tenten was definitely the best choice, yes."
"Right. Now that we have that established," Tenten cracked her knuckles, "I set-up a "counseling" session for him, which I titled, oh so creatively, "Tenten's School for the Hopeless!""
Ino's eyes widened, "That is so not the Tenten I know! Alright, cough it up: where'd you get the idea?"
Tenten glared at the platinum blonde, "Just had to go and ruin my moment, didn't you? Well, if you must know, while on a mission with the Mist ninjas, I met a shinobi named Fubuki. The mission took a little while and we got to know each other over the time. He told me that he had been trying to hook up his sister and her childhood friend –Judai, I think was his name- and he liked to refer to it as "Fubuki's School for the Hopeless," since Judai didn't have a clue on how to handle girls. So, I took his idea, modified it, and used it to help our poor Byakugan user!" she smiled, obviously proud of her efforts.
Naruto thought for a moment, "So…is that where he learned all those make-out moves? You taught him that? Where you two like…doing the same thing and all?"
"NO, you idiot!" Tenten punched him on the head.
Naruto winced, "Oooo…now I've got two sore-spots…."
Tenten's eyebrow twitched, "Next time I'll get out the kunai…."
"And taking that from the weapon's master of Konoha, I shall "shut my yap," as the Hokage tends to tell me," Naruto nodded enthusiastically.
Hinata rolled her eyes and turned back to Tenten, "So…how was he fairing in your "school?""
"He was actually doing quite well!" Tenten smiled brightly, "In fact, he did his homework for today! I came here to meet him for another session…but I guess this session turned out a little differently," she smiled mischievously, "Anyway, I told him to totally change his look for the night. And so he did!"
"So that's why he was ransacking the manor," Hinata put a finger to her lips, "He even came into my closet to see what I had…."
"Does that guy really have no other change of clothes than his training outfits?" Ino asked, truly surprised.
"I guess not," Tenten answered. She turned back to her ex-student's cousin, "Now, about that journal you mentioned…."
The four friends froze on the spot. Slowly, they took their time to turn around. Questioning and icy, clear eyes stared back into all of theirs.
"Oh…nothing at all, Neji, dear," Tenten giggled nervously, "I was just telling them about-"
"I'm sure you were," Neji's eyes narrowed even more. If that was even possible.
Sakura walked up to Ino and held out her hand, "I trust you witness the…interaction? It's not like you to miss such goings-on."
Ino plopped the money into Sakura's hand: the last remnants of any bet on the table. Sakura stared hard and long at her friend, "Witness the consequences of what you have done tonight, Ino."
"They look pretty good to me," Ino smiled.
Sakura grinned, leaning against Neji, "Yes, I suppose they are."
The group turned to face the blonde-and-blue-haired couple. Hinata fell back from whispering in Naruto's ear. Everyone watched them, somewhat impatiently.
When no one spoke, Ino pounded on the table, "Alright, what's going on?"
Hinata's face turned scarlet and she slowly held up some money, "I-I'm sorry…. I just got so…into it…I couldn't stop."
"What?" Tenten blinked, "You mean…you're still betting?" Hinata only nodded furiously.
Neji and Sakura's eyes each narrowed as they looked around the table. "Betting?" Neji asked in a deadly whisper.
Sakura was over by Naruto's side in a second, holding her tightly coiled fist poised over his head, "What did she said, Uzamaki?" she growled out.
Naruto covered his head as he watched the trembling fist above him, "S-She bet…that you guys get engaged…within the year."
And that's all for my crazy little one-shot! I hope it was alright and met the standards. I also hope I ended it okay…. Hoe it was the right spot…. I actually had quite a bit of fun writing it! Yes, there was OOC-ness, but when isn't there in romance fics? Besides, they've all grown older, so it's only fair that their personalities change a wee bit. But I so hope you all enjoyed it! I poured out my heart and soul…I think…into this SEVENTEEN-page one-shot! I know…my one-shots are really long-winded…but I so hope it was worth it! Thanks for reading it, any of you who did so! And PLEASE REVIEW :-D