Naruto understood the unspoken words of those around him, for once. Everyone was waiting, and he even suspected they were placing bets. He was close to tearing into someone for simply because of the incessant staring.

"Who do you think-"


"It's only a matter of time-"

He twitched, and looked visibly pissed as he turned and glared at an impassive Kakashi. "You're not helping."

Kakashi peered over the top of his novel. "Oh? I wasn't planning to."

His once-teacher's attitude irritated Naruto even more. "You placed a bet, didn't you."

Kakashi drolly replied. "A bet? On what, Naruto? I wasn't aware there was a pool going. I guess that's a consequence of getting older..."

Naruto was relieved. Enough that at least this one of his friends hadn't participated in the childish behavior the entire of Konoha had surrendered to-

"-though I do think Pakkun laid his funds on Hinata-"

Naruto nearly howled with frustration. "You too, mutt?" Pakkun wasn't exactly present, but Kakashi understood the intent.

"People have to amuse themselves somehow," he pointed out, unhelpfully.

"This is getting ridiculous."

"I admit, the posters are a bit over the top-"

"Posters?" Naruto threw his hands into the air. "That's it. Where the hell are they?"

Kakashi let his book drop, intending to answer, but he found himself talking to no one. Oh well. Naruto was surely energetic enough to find who he was looking for before night really settled into Konoha. He would just saunter toward the teahouse where Sakura and Sasuke had been enjoying a little respite from the same mad whispers around town.

Kakashi was exceedingly interested in the outcome of recent events.

Naruto was as well, if only because the irritation of everyone else speculating on who would break down first was driving him insane. He'd avoided talking at length to either of his teammates about the same questions everyone else assumed were already answered, but he couldn't wait any longer. Huffing, not so much from exertion but adrenaline, Naruto dropped down the the ground as he caught sight of two familiar forms. Sakura, wearing the ridiculous stomach-revealing outfit she'd gotten when she turned twenty-five (what could ever had possessed her to buy something like that, let alone then?) and Sasuke, in what might have been his father's spitting image. (This, at least, Naruto gathered from Jiraiya, who wouldn't shut up on the subject, much like he wouldn't stop ogling Sakura's breasts, which also annoyed Naruto lately.)

Urgency betrayed Naruto's lack of composure and irritation as he called out to his two closest friends. "Oi! Sakura! Sasuke!"

Looking up as one from their table, tea still in Sakura's hands, they acknowledged Naruto with a smile (on Sakura's part) and a nod (from Sasuke). There was a small hesitation on Sakura's part, as if she knew why Naruto was here now. Like she was preparing herself.

Sasuke resumed sipping his tea.

Naruto stared down at the both of them, then cleared his throat. "Could you, ah, both stand, please? I have something I want to talk to you about."

"Fine," Sakura said, friendly enough, though she held her hand out for Naruto to pull her up. Sakura had developed a late sense of propriety, which involved seeing both her boys paid good attention to treating her whims as they would a real lady's. Naruto hadn't been surprised about the consequences of screwing up, though he had been surprised the time Sakura decked Sasuke for calling her fat. Apparently, nothing was sacred.

Which made this moment all the more important. After a moment, Sasuke set his cup down on the table. When he was standing and paying some degree of attention, detached as that attention was, Naruto continued.

He felt hot. "Well, it's just, I've, uh, been hearing a whole bunch of... Rumors. About, well, me, and us, and stuff..." Naruto had never felt less his age than while looking at his teammates faces, feeling his own fill with color.

"Oh, screw it. Hey, Konoha!" Naruto looked over his shoulder, seeing a few vaguely interested expressions on the faces of people moving along the street, "You couldn't stop asking, so I guess I'd better come clean." He grinned, feeling more self-confident, shedding the pretense of knowing how to say what he wanted. His frustration had hit a high point, and now he was rolling.

"And if you're so damn interested in my life, then take a good long look! 'Cause you can't get any more honest than this!" And with a barely whispered, "Sorry, Sakura," Naruto grabbed Sasuke by the shoulders and trespassed where he once had, when he was twelve.

Only this time, it was no accident. And Sasuke tasted like tea and honey.

The thought stayed with Naruto even after he was running away, laughing, knowing full well Sasuke was coming after him with murder in his eyes. But not Sakura. And (maybe) that had been the difference all along.