So here we finally are: the last chapter. I'm really quite sad to see Flipped go, because well, it's been such a huge part of my life for two years. We had some good times, this fic and I. and of course, my readers – all of you, even the lurkers. The people who reviewed, the people who added me to their favs and alerts and C2s, the PM-ers, and all the great friends I made thanks to this – my – baby.
Special thanks goes to, in no particular order: the blanket, HPBabe91, cutecrazyice, Xanie, Neon Genesis, AGENT KELL, alana124pyro, StarSparklez, vikkaayBYAH, nazzy and jerkez, childofthestorm, inu-babygirl, frumpyrox, Inulover4eva, pinkLaLa-o3, Sweet Bliss, xBlu3-Appl3x, SunnyHinata, nickygirl, extraordinaire, graviola,MizChriztina,bella-bijin, BuBBLe Tea BaBe, tragic serenade, Lady Emerald Star, Animegurl9164, coconut.mandarin, A.Annie.N, Heart's Door, AngelOfDarkness1005, quivering quill, RedMapleLeaf, kt.1z.awesome, Guttersnipe, AGENT RACH, BuBBly CaNis luPus, fanficgirl8, HeartAngel, runwithskizzers, vivverz and especially The Slingshot Effect, whose amazing review got me pumped up to write this chapter.
What a list. You guys have been there from the beginning, back when I was a n00b to now when I'm, um, not. I probably forgot someone, and I actually appreciate every last one of you, but if I put down every name I'd probably forget to write the actual chapter. But thank you all! You've made this story such an enjoyable experience, and you've made me one very happy authoress.
Please note that there will be no sequel, no spin-offs. After this, I'm going to try and take a little break before posting anything else, though I've already started working on them – they can be found in my LJ, and I would love to hear your thoughts on them, and on the entirety of Flipped, so I can judge what you might want to see from me in the future.
So, here's your last chapter. Sorry about the wait – it's a little over 5000 words – my longest chapter ever, sadly – and I tried to make it as close to perfect as I felt it could get. I hope you enjoy it.
And so, without further ado, the finale of—
"You heal fast, Sasuke," Sakura said, trailing her fingers over his ribs. With her help the bones had healed, the bleeding had stopped, and the bruises were fading. She was very pleased.
"He does everything fast, Sakura-chan," Naruto said with a wink. Sakura flamed red at the innuendo.
"Do you realize how that makes the two of you sound, Naruto?" Neji asked. Sasuke glared at him as if he would like nothing better than to rip his head off, which gave Neji a smug sort of satisfaction.
Naruto gagged. "That's just gross. I don't do pasty-skinned and emo, thanks." Naruto looked to Sakura to complain about how mean her boyfriend was being, but she was too busy staring at him and Sasuke with a very twisted kind of fascination.
He swallowed nervously. "Sakura-chan…?"
Sakura flashed an impish grin. "Well, you know, he has a point…"
"Sakura," Sasuke cut in in a strained voice. "Shut up."
Sakura laughed and patted his cheek, then flitted over to the other bed for Neji's daily morning check-up. "You guys should be out of here today itself," she said, to both Sasuke and Neji's relief. Which is good news for you, because the nurses have been asking to drop in during your examinations," she added with a pointed look at both bare chests. Sasuke folded his arms across his chest stubbornly, narrowing his eyes, and she laughed again. "I said they could try, but they might land themselves in the ICU."
"Might?" Neji echoed dryly.
"You guys are violent. What's wrong with you?" Naruto shook his head incredulously. "I love girls. I love you, Sakura-chan!"
"I love you, Naruto!"
Naruto smiled and leaned back in his chair, mentally patting himself on the back for a job well done.
After all, he couldn't have been the only one to notice Sakura's eyes on not him, but Sasuke. Neji didn't stand a chance.
Sakura had signed the forms for Neji's release first, and he had been out the door before she so much as capped her pen.
She blinked. "Uh. Don't strain yourself…?"
"He's probably PMS-ing," Naruto said very seriously. Sakura looked hurt, and no one hurt Sakura. He scoffed inwardly. Sasuke wouldn't make her look like that.
Well, maybe he would. But Sasuke was different. At least he could make her smile the way she was now, perching beside him on the bed, where he was waiting for her to release him, too—
"Can I go?"
"Well, to be honest, I kind of liked the company…"
Even though she was teasing, Naruto hastened to say, "We'll drop by more! Promise!"
Sakura laughed. "How sweet."
"That's what they call me," Sasuke said dryly. He wouldn't look at her, and Sakura frowned, confused.
"Who's they? Orochi-kun?" Naruto asked with relish. Oh, his stupid best friend just made it so easy. He could just imagine the kind of mocking hell he could give both teammates once they actually got together. Which should be soon, really. All Sakura needed to do was get rid of Neji, and all Sasuke had to do was deflate his fat head.
Sasuke glared at him. Sakura half-rose from her seat, hovering protectively.
"Don't make fun of Sasuke-kun," she said. Naruto noted the slip-up with no small amount of pleasure.
But then Sasuke jerked away from her when she tried to touch his shoulder, turning his head so he couldn't see the look on her face. He cleared his throat.
"Can I go?" he asked again, softer this time.
Naruto's jaw dropped in surprise and anger as Sakura, biting her lip, hurt and confusion dancing in her gaze, nodded.
"You can go," she whispered. But why? she wanted to ask.
It didn't take long for Naruto to catch up with Sasuke. He had stayed behind for Sakura, but she had only smiled and excused herself to do her rounds, then slipped away before he could challenge those big, sad eyes. He had waited, to see if she might come back, if she might need him, before he leapt out the window, not wanting to waste time with stairs, and ran halfway across Konoha until he found Sasuke unlocking the door to his apartment.
And then he slammed him against the wall, quicker than Sasuke could hope to react.
"What the hell, Naruto?!" Sasuke snarled, looking murderous. Naruto didn't care, only tightened his grip on Sasuke's collar.
"How many times do we need to go over this?" he demanded. "I thought you liked her! Why are you being such a jerk to her?"
"I've always been a jerk," Sasuke reminded him flatly. Naruto glared, releasing him in disgust. Sasuke straightened his rumpled clothes absently.
"Why am I even helping you?" Naruto wondered aloud for his best friend's benefit. "You make her cry."
Sasuke narrowed his eyes, and for a moment, Naruto saw something in them he shouldn't have.
"Then stop. Stay out of it, Naruto. I don't need your help."
"What, you're going to make her fall in love with you by yourself?" Naruto sneered as Sasuke turned to head inside his apartment. "Yeah, good luck with that, Tall, Dark, and Asshole."
Sasuke paused, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose. Stupid blond idiot. Why was he so obnoxious?
Maybe he didn't want to be with Sakura, maybe he did. Either way, she had already made her choice, and he wasn't going to make her change it just for him, or for Naruto's own complex. There was a time when he would be glad to take back what was his, but seeing the two of them actually interacting, and the way Neji treated her in the way he never could, made Sasuke realize something. He wasn't going to be second choice. He wasn't going to make her do anything, particularly fall in love with him again, when he didn't even know what had caused it in the first place. Rejecting her? Insulting her?
No, it would just be easier to forget any feelings for Sakura, everything beyond his value for her friendship, and it would all disappear with time.
Until then, he just had to keep his distance. That couldn't be hard. He had done it before. He could do it again. No matter what Naruto might say.
"Neji…" Tenten mocked from where she lay sprawled beside him on the earth, the day after his release from the hospital. Neji sat, legs crossed, deep in thought after their spar. Gai-sensei had insisted he should rest up for a day, and make up the three missed days of training later, but that was before Tenten had body-slammed him. Neji had been knocked off his feet, but he was grateful for the excuse. She knew him so well.
Tenten cracked open one eye. "What, you just like saying my name?" He didn't answer, so she pushed herself up onto her elbows, looking concerned. "What's wrong?"
Neji thought about it. On one hand, Tenten was one of his best – and only – friends. She was smart and down-to-earth, and she knew people the way he never would.
On the other hand, he wasn't really keen on embarrassing himself in front of anyone, let alone her.
She pushed a lock of sweat-damp hair away from her flushed cheeks and sat up fully. "Neji?" She was actually beginning to sound alarmed, shaking his shoulder for emphasis. "Can you hear me? Nod once if it's a yes."
Neji rolled his eyes at her, frowning. "Calm down, Tenten."
She ignored him. "What's wrong?!"
Neji cringed unnoticeably – or so he hoped. He opened his mouth to speak slowly, words he thought he'd never have to say spilling out.
"Tenten. I have a girl problem."
He got it. He had spent too much time watching for Neji's reactions, that he forgot to keep an eye out for Sasuke's. Naruto wanted to break something. Why was he surrounded by idiots?
Sakura wouldn't see that Neji wasn't right for her. Sasuke wouldn't see that he was. And Neji…
Naruto raked a hand through his mess of blond hair, groaning. Damn pretty-boy. He had to be both everything Sasuke was and wasn't.
Neji was a skilled prodigy, good-looking, terrifying, and popular. Sasuke had that too. But Neji was also polite. Neji treated Sakura like an equal, and always had, all throughout their relationship. Sakura knew that Neji, of all people, couldn't stomp all over her heart.
No wonder Sasuke was being such a complete idiot, Naruto thought bitterly. He was insecure!
Well, he couldn't do anything for that, just like he could never do anything for Sakura's mess of feelings. It was hard to swallow. All through the last two weeks, Naruto had been the one pulling the strings behind the curtain. He had plotted and lied and tricked, and now he was out of ideas.
But Naruto was an optimist. If something was meant to be, it would be. And Sasuke and Sakura were definitely—dare he say it?—fated.
The thought was enough to make him laugh.
Women could understand other girls better than men could ever hope to. Neji was just glad he knew such a woman.
Tenten hadn't even laughed, much to his relief. She had listened patiently, knees drawn up to her chest, while Neji recounted just what had gone on between Sakura and him over the past two weeks. At the very end of it, she breathed out, long and slow, and said, "Nice of you to keep it from us." She had looked almost too sad for the situation, and Neji had apologized awkwardly, unable to look at her.
But then she had explained to him that maybe it wasn't his problem to deal with. Maybe Neji just had to let go.
"This is one for Konoha's Angstiest Couple," she said, smiling gently. "You were never supposed to be part of it."
Harsh words, but true. Neji knew what he had to do, and as Tenten assured him, "It's what's right. Don't you always do the right thing, Mr. Morals?"
Then she had stood up, yanked him off the ground, and urged him to at least shower and make himself presentable.
"Before I break her heart?" he had said humorlessly. Tenten slumped against his back, where she had been shoving against him, for a silent moment.
"There's only one heartbreaker per person," she said slowly. Neji felt her fingers drum against his spine, a nervous habit of hers. "And Sakura already has hers." She smiled at him encouragingly. "If I thought this would hurt her, I wouldn't suggest it. But Neji, you're doing her more harm than good if you stay with her. You're not the one she wants."
Tenten followed him to his apartment, but she left soon after he disappeared to shower, and Neji realized that this really would be for the best. There had been a time that Tenten couldn't keep anything from him, but he had been so caught up with Team Seven that he had neglected, however unintentionally, his own teammates. He hadn't even realized that Tenten was looking sadder, lonelier by the day.
But no more, he resolved, entering Ichiraku. Sakura was sitting at the counter, as expected, twirling her chopsticks between her fingers, spacing out, and he was going to deal with this problem – and then with Tenten's.
Neji cleared his throat.
"Sakura." Neji sounded, awkward, stiff. The way he had when they were virtual strangers and he was at least trying to get along with her. It was amazing the way things changed in their relationship. So different from her and Sasuke. "May I talk to you?"
She set down her chopsticks and stood, nodding. Neji looked uncomfortable, and she reached out, concerned—before thinking better of it and letting her hand drop.
"I…" Neji cleared his throat, threw his shoulders back, and stared down at her, his face blank. Sakura felt her stomach tie itself in knots. "I think maybe we should—part ways."
Sakura licked her lips. "You're breaking up with me?" Her voice broke. Really, all the rejection was getting to be too much.
Neji looked torn. His upbringing had taught him never to hurt women, but he knew he had to keep going. Sakura would never be able to have a relationship with anyone but Sasuke, and he was going to inform her of that fact before it was too late.
So he straightened and nodded, expression carefully neutral. "This… relationship," he began slowly, "Is not working out and—" Sakura looked stricken. Neji broke off. He didn't think she had ever looked so crushed.
"Why?" she asked in a very quiet voice. She pressed her palms together. They were shaking, Neji saw, and something about her defeated posture looked familiar.
And then it clicked. Sakura, hugging herself tightly, eyes squeezed shut against tears, looking broken and miserable, begging Naruto to bring her back some hope, bring her back Sasuke.
Tenten's words rang through his mind, and he decided to take a page out of her book.
"Because," he said firmly, and Sakura looked up at him, big green eyes looking very lonely and very sad. "I am not Sasuke, nor will I ever be."
She took a step back, clearly caught off-guard. "But—" She floundered for something to say, wringing her hands, then slumped. "But Sasuke doesn't love me back."
Neji half-smiled, hopeful that the worst was over. "He loves you more than I ever could," he said, and he meant it.
Still, that didn't stop him from reddening when Sakura smiled wistfully up at him. "Do you think?" She really was very pretty, with her bright eyes half-lidded, a dimple forming in one cheek. She was intelligent and beautiful and loyal. But she really wasn't the one for him. More than that, he wasn't really the one for her.
Neji coughed. "Why don't you go talk to him about this?" he suggested, mostly to end the conversation, but also to encourage her to take that last step. It was do or die now, and a true Konoha native always did.
Sakura looked nauseous at the very thought, but she balled her hands into fists and swallowed. "You know what? I think I will." She nodded decisively, but didn't move. After a moment, Neji spoke up.
She exhaled gustily. "I'm nervous." Then she shook her head, smiling a little. "But I'm going to do it." She took a step backward, then hesitated, before saying earnestly, "For what it's worth… you'd make a really good boyfriend."
He bowed his head just slightly, embarrassed. "Thank you," he said, grateful that his teammates couldn't see him.
Or so he thought until Sakura, looking both terrified and determined, finally left, and he heard a snicker from behind him. He turned, and there was his apparently only-occasionally-wise teammate, looking more at peace than, he realized belatedly, she had looked for a long time.
It made him wonder.
"You did the right thing, Neji." Tenten looked solemn for all of two seconds before bursting into giggles. Neji gave her a very dry look, and she only laughed harder. "Better not tell Lee about this."
"Of course. Keep your mouth shut," he warned, just as a new voice behind them said: "Don't tell Lee what?"
Neji turned, and there was Lee, looking innocently curious. Behind him, Tenten was patting his shoulder for support, but Neji could hear her snickering away.
He hated his teammates.
Tenten flashed him a bright, encouraging smile, and said, "Neji doesn't want you to know that he's a sucker for a good romance. What a sap." She laughed when Lee looked surprised – and not a bit pleased – and Neji corrected himself.
So he only hated them sometimes.
"Who wants ramen?" Tenten said brightly. "Neji's treat!"
He had missed this more than he had realized, so for once, Neji didn't bother arguing, only took his seat beside her, Lee on his other side, and fell back into a routine that never faded, with friends who actually belonged to him.
Sasuke was only a few feet ahead, and Sakura knew that he knew that she was following him. She imagined that he knew she knew he knew she was following him, and that he also knew why, and he knew that she knew that he knew why, but all of that made her head spin, so she just picked up her pace to try and catch up with him.
In response, he hurried his own that much more so the distance between them didn't decrease in the slightest. However, Sakura was stubborn enough to make sure it also didn't increase.
Sasuke didn't stop, didn't even slow down. If she didn't know he was trying to avoid her, she would think that his hearing was going bad. But he was avoiding her, and that didn't really fly with her.
Idiot. She hadn't even gotten to the mushy stuff and he was already running away. It was time to pull out the big guns.
"Sasuke-kun!" There. Just the way she had said it at twelve, too: whiny and scared and desperate. He stopped, alright. Only for a second, but Sakura was ready. She pushed all her energy into one last spurt of speed, and was finally at his side.
"That was a dirty trick." He looked rather impressed, if reluctantly so.
"I thought so," she replied, pleased. Then she scowled. "Why won't you listen to me?"
"…I didn't hear you."
"Nice try." They were only a few feet away from the bridge and she was tired, so she dragged him to it, scrambling up onto the railing, as usual. "Why are you avoiding me?" she asked, stalling. Even if she talked big, didn't mean she wasn't shaking inside. She had just gotten very good at lying to Sasuke – something she had once thought impossible.
Sasuke looked straight at her, gaze intense. He stepped closer, until they were touching, and put his hands on either side of her. Sakura felt her breath quicken in spite of herself, especially when he leaned close, until his lips fluttered along her jaw.
"I don't want you to be with him," he murmured, in exactly the same way as he had before, when everything was still beginning. It seemed a lifetime ago. "I don't want you to be with anyone but me."
For one heart-stopping moment, she thought he was going to come to a confession, but he tore his lips away from her after only a second, smirked, and said, "That's what you wanted to hear, right?"
Sakura felt herself go cold. "W—what?" she stuttered, disoriented by the sudden shift.
"You want me to be in love with you, since Neji isn't." Sasuke looked half-exasperated, half-almost-amused, but at least he hadn't pulled away yet. "Real life doesn't work that way, Sakura."
Sakura narrowed her eyes. "And why not? Why can't you be in love with me – and no, not because Neji isn't, but because I am in love with you?" She put her hands on Sasuke's forearms, digging her fingers into his skin so he couldn't escape. Sasuke didn't seem to notice. His eyes were hollow, expression uncaring.
"What happened to 'I don't like Sasuke anymore'?" he reminded her.
Sakura brought his face down to her level so she could glare him straight in the eyes, enunciating clearly so he would understand, "Sasuke-kun. You idiot. I haven't liked you since we were twelve. I have loved you more than you could possibly understand, and I never, ever stopped."
Sasuke had finally stopped smirking. His gaze was flat, serious, and his shoulders were tense under her palms. Sakura went on, even though her mind was screaming at her to stop before she dug herself a hole she couldn't climb out of, no matter who she liked or what she said. Her heart was beating a mile a minute at his eyes on hers, but she still couldn't stop.
"You never spoke to me, were never comfortable with me like you were with Naruto. I thought, maybe if you saw that I could get over you, we could—" She licked her lips, but her mouth felt very dry. "We could be friends."
Even on the railing, Sakura was shorter than him, and Sasuke straightened to his full height. He peered down at her, and she shrunk into herself. Why had she said all those things? Why had she bared her feelings like that when she promised herself she wouldn't?
Oh, Sakura, Inner Sakura resurfaced to despair, Why must you be such a complete moron?
She could only wish she knew, as she stared up at Sasuke. Her cheeks were flushed, and she probably looked as miserable as she felt, but she wouldn't let him catch on if she could help it. If she didn't look away and get flustered, maybe she had a chance to save this. Maybe they could be okay—
"So," Sasuke said conversationally, leaning over her so she had to lean further back, gripping the railing so she wouldn't fall, "Are you in love with me now?"
Her gaze flicked down for only a second, but that was all the confirmation he needed. Sakura had always been very easy to read, in spite of how she had managed to fool him and the rest of the team for so long. But he chalked that up to how inexperienced he, Naruto, and Kakashi were in the ways of women.
Sakura, meanwhile, stared at Sasuke's lips – only so she wouldn't have to meet his eyes. Eyes that she knew would burn into her and make her swoon all over again, and forcibly yank the truth out of her, whether she wanted to give it or not.
But staring at Sasuke's lips brought up all sorts of feelings as well. Staring at them, she remembered the way that he sometimes smirked at Naruto when he was making a fool of himself, or the way he scowled at Kakashi when he was trying to make a fool out of Sasuke. And while she was thinking about how he smirked at Naruto and scowled at Kakashi, she could've sworn she saw him smile at her.
The thought made her freeze, because to her knowledge, Uchiha Sasuke hadn't smiled at anyone since he was eight. But the proof was staring in her face: lips, upturned in an expression softer than a smirk, but still too small to be a flat-out grin, parted to say:
"Sakura. Stop staring at my lips and answer me."
And the spell was shattered, and she frowned up at him and said, "Well, doesn't that give you your answer?"
"Not really. It just tells me you want me to kiss you."
Her face flamed because (a) he was right, and (b) he was making this so difficult!
"You're just making fun of me now," she complained. "God, Sasuke, if it wasn't for Naruto, Neji would have never been jealous of you in the first place. You're so unromantic."
Sasuke's gaze darkened, and Sakura tensed. Maybe that hadn't been the best thing to say…?
"If you want that idiot to dictate our relationship," he said sourly, "I'm not going out with you."
What had she expected? Anger, mostly. Maybe a bit of sulking. She had, after all, used Neji to get over Sasuke. She had lied about her feelings, even if it had been as much for his benefit as her own. She had dragged them through hell and back with the fake-relationship, and the too-real breakup. She was expecting maybe some spiteful comments, a short argument.
Instead, she got Sasuke's version of a confession. A sweet one, too, at least in her world: her world that consisted of Sasuke, and Sasuke alone.
Smiling wider than she could ever remember doing in her life, Sakura let go of the railing with the full intention of looping her arms around him while the going was good. Sasuke was getting as close to mushy as he ever could, and she planned to take full advantage of it to cuddle. But, because she was Sakura, and nothing ever went right, especially in her love life, she forgot that she was still leaning so far back that she had nothing to support her, and when she let go, she toppled backwards…
Sasuke moved with her, grabbing her around the shoulders, and they both slipped over the railing and off the bridge, into the water below.
The river was shallow, and the fall wasn't high, but Sasuke had still tried to be a gentleman and switched their positions so that Sakura landed sprawled on him – even if there was nothing very gentlemanly about how his hands had landed automatically on various parts of her anatomy as she lay across him.
She rubbed her nose. "Your chest is too hard."
"Sorry," Sasuke deadpanned, and she laughed. She couldn't imagine ever having been so happy, and it was, as usual, all because of Sasuke. She would probably get on his nerves pretty soon with how good her mood was, but right now, she couldn't bring herself to care as she watched him push the wet hair out of his eyes. He met her blindingly bright green gaze, bemused. "What?"
"I just really missed you," she answered honestly.
"I… didn't go anywhere."
"But I almost went to the dark side," she reminded him.
Sasuke nodded very seriously. "We'll discuss that later," he said, so firmly, that Sakura burst into a fit of giggles and launched herself at him, elation running through her so fiercely that she didn't even care when Sasuke told her she was heavy – though it did earn him a pinch.
"I love you, Sasuke!" She was half-sitting in his lap, and her wet clothes were sticking to her body, the cold seeping in and goosebumps sprouting over her bare arms and legs, wherever she wasn't pressed against Sasuke, and she was uncomfortable, but she wasn't about to let him go. Not when she had an excuse. Not when he wasn't pushing her off.
Not when he was putting his own arms around her, slowly, tentatively.
"I know," Sasuke mumbled into her hair, and Sakura thought her heart might burst.
Everything was finally falling into place.
"What are you waiting for? Kiss her!"
Sakura and Sasuke looked up, and there was Naruto, hanging off the side of the bridge and wearing a goofy grin.
"I do all that work to get you guys together," he went on, "And you can't even show some affection? You're an idiot! Do I need to throw another rock at you?"
Sakura distinctly felt Sasuke growl, deep in his chest.
"You might want to run," she advised.
"I'm not scared of him," Naruto bragged. "He owes me. If it wasn't for me, you two would never get together!"
"Actually," said a new voice, just as Kakashi appeared, hanging upside-down off a branch and scratching his chin thoughtfully. "If it wasn't for my mission, Sasuke would never have looked twice at Sakura."
It was Sakura's turn to growl, and Sasuke patted her shoulder comfortingly. "That's not true?" he offered lamely. When she turned her head, his cheeks were dusted red, and he refused to look at her. She beamed.
"Guess we kinda butchered the mission," Sakura mused.
Kakashi smiled at her. "Maybe, maybe not."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Naruto wanted to know.
"What have I always told you, Naruto? Look underneath the underneath." There was a twinkle in his lone visible eye that made Sakura wonder. Could he…? But no. Not even Kakashi could predict how Sasuke would react to the mission, or manipulate Naruto so effortlessly, or guess her feelings…
But then again, her old teacher never ceased to surprise her. Maybe this had been his plan all along. Sakura doubted she would ever know.
"Now, I'm sure you two are comfortable," Kakashi continued, leering at Sakura and Sasuke, "But don't you think you should get out of the water? That's inappropriate."
Sakura and Sasuke couldn't get out fast enough. Naruto laughed, glad that finally, things were as they should be.
Two weeks later found Team Seven back at their bridge, this time all of them dry. Nothing was different from how it had been a month ago: Kakashi was still late, Naruto was still loud, Sasuke was still aloof.
But now Sakura stood by Sasuke, smiling all-too-happily, brushing the tips of his fingers with her own, and he didn't pull back.
"When are you going to get over him already?" Naruto grumped. "You two make me sick."
Sasuke glowered at him. "You only wish you could get a girl."
"I don't wanna get a girl," Naruto argued. "I wanna be a pimp like Shikamaru."
"Doesn't he kind of have a girlfriend?" Sakura pointed out.
"Ah, Sakura-chan. The less you know, the better. Anyways, girls are not a problem for me. I should have an information booth or something—"
"You're la—!" Sakura broke off. "Uh, hi, Kiba…" What was he doing here?
"Hey." Kiba looked as nervous as Sakura had ever seen him, including the time he needed a shot in his anus and his teammates were watching. Sakura was concerned until he said, "Naruto, I, uh, hear you're in the matchmaking business…"
Naruto raised an eyebrow. "Uh-huh." When Kiba was silent, he broke out in a delighted grin. "Oh, no. Don't tell me. You admit to needing my help getting a girl?" Naruto laughed hard, clutching the railing for support, while Kiba glared at him without comment. Finally, Sakura took pity on him.
"Stop being so insensitive," she scolded. Sasuke slapped Naruto upside the head for good measure. "Thanks, Sasuke-kun."
"What do you need, Kiba?" Kakashi asked to get them back on track.
Kiba scowled at his feet, clearly embarrassed. "It's…" He sighed, exasperated. "Hinata."
"Hinata-chan?" Naruto repeated, frowning thoughtfully.
"The one who faints around you all the time," Sasuke offered unhelpfully. Kiba grit his teeth, and Sakura elbowed him. "What?"
"Just stop talking," she hissed.
"Sure, I'll help!" Naruto beamed. "Hinata-chan won't know what hit her!"
Sakura slumped against Sasuke's shoulder as Naruto chattered on about his plans. "Why am I getting déjà vu?" she asked wearily.
"It never ends in this place," Sasuke muttered. "Why did I leave Sound?"
Sakura pinched him, hard. "Because you missed me," she said, fisting her hands in a promise of pain if he didn't agree.
She was so violent, so temperamental, and so weird. She took pleasure in his pain and teased him mercilessly, and she could be just plain cruel. But under it all, even if he couldn't see it for so long, she was just a girl that loved him with all her heart, so Sasuke pressed his palm against hers and squeezed her fingers in silent agreement.
"So first, we need to know Hinata-chan."
"Uh, favorite color?"
I'll miss this. :(