So, this was all Naruto's idea. And it was going too fast.

It was a given that they were going to chase Sasuke down, so in daily conversation, mostly they didn't mention it. It was understood. They didn't have to say it. And, anyway, Sakura could hear his name in every word she and Naruto said. You could say they'd built their bridges to one another in the process of bringing Sasuke back. Even if he was not there, he was there in their memories and their thoughts. He was always there. Sasuke was still Kakashi's number one favorite genjutsu trick to use on them. He was their weak spot. But also, their strength. They bound together to save him. They joined hands to fall in love with one another, accidentally. And Sasuke would be bound up in everything they'd do until and after and forever, up until he was safe and home in Konoha. And beyond.

They had decided to have children because they both wanted them. Sakura wanted to give Naruto a family, and he wanted to make her happy. They both wanted to draw closer, seal their bonds. Maybe they were a bit young, but they were both jounin now. They were on the jounin pay scale for the missions they took. So they could afford it. And maybe now was the time, when Sakura was young and resilient, and could recover from childbirth quickly, and get back to work.

"I want to see his face." Naruto said, laughing. Talking about when Sasuke came home, because to Naruto it was something that would definitely happen, sometime. "He'll be jealous, you see!" Of them, of their happiness, of the fact that Naruto had married her and Sasuke hadn't, Sakura was used to this joke. It was what Naruto did, make cracks about it, just so it would be a bit more bearable. Sakura just hoped they could show Sasuke when the time came that he was still part of them. She hoped he'd somehow be willing to accept it from them this time. She also hoped that he didn't get himself killed, or destroy the parts of him she'd seen winking to life, near the end of their time together. She hoped she'd recognize Sasuke when he returned. She hoped he'd be alive. Mostly she let Naruto carry that torch, she was the practical one. She kept them on track. He kept their hearts together. They held fast, their hands tightly interlinked.

They hadn't thought too much about this idea of inviting Hinata to spend some time with them. It was meant to be just good feelings for the sake of goodness. Sakura still thought that it would probably work out. She pushed away the melancholy. She and Naruto tried to focus on the future, on the brightness of the current moment. They had one another. They had their friends, their team. They could go forward...

And the time to realize that maybe it wasn't a good idea was long since passed. Part of Sakura stood back and had some clinical distance about the situation. Maybe it was wrong, and maybe it was insensitive. She knew that Hinata liked Naruto, and Naruto knew it... and it was a mess, or would have been, if Hinata had actually seemed to want to do anything but be alone, dutiful and carry herself with a wispy hint of sadness.

But the time to explain their feelings was passed.. passing.. very fast. As Sakura sat back on her heels slightly, Naruto was leaning in to kiss the little half-crescent of Hinata's delicate jaw, and Hinata was squeezing the bones of Sakura's hand together. The moment was spiraling away.

She hid her sigh, because she didn't want to ruin that moment, it was set out perfectly before her, her husband's closed cat-eyes, the soft press of his ruddy skin against Hinata's perfect powdered cheek. Jungle cat to storybook princess. And both of them held her hands, Hinata had one, Naruto had the other. Sakura couldn't move, couldn't do much of anything but watch, as second-hand pleasure quivered through their fingers. If she closed her eyes now, they'd pull her in, and none of them would think anything reasonable again until the deed was done. This was not the time to worry, or to call a halt to anything.

"We just want you to be happy." she said again, whispering, even though Hinata's ear was relatively far away. Naruto flexed up the long muscles of his arm, and both he and Hinata tumbled into Sakura's lap, warm and flushed. Hinata's hair fell over Sakura's arm, her bare legs. This was going too fast, Naruto was in charge.. nothing boring would come of this, that was for sure.

Oh, hell.. she couldn't let Naruto run the show, he'd make a bigger mess then he'd made of the kitchen. Sitting up, she leaned down and got everyone's limbs sorted out. She could manage the charka acupressure, the touch-points... she got Hinata calmed a bit more, and Naruto all languid and sprawled in Hinata's lap.. but he was so beautifully easy. Putty in her hands.

And they let Hinata watch as Sakura took him in her mouth. She felt his lower stomach jerk under her hands, imagined she heard the Kyuubi's rumble. But Naruto was reaching out for Hinata's hand, and then Hinata's little white arms were around him, Hinata was holding him tightly, as Sakura sucked on him gently, making him stop all the playful animal stuff- which he did on purpose- and just tip his head back and groan, soft and low. His hips moved in that slow liquid rhythm, Sakura found Hinata's hand high on Naruto's chest, crossed over his heart. Hinata's chakra was delicate, it almost had lace edges, her hand pressed to Naruto's taut stomach and the slow bleed of the Kyuubi's energy was a strange mixture, dark and light.

It was strange, the silence.. just their breathing. It was almost reverent, even Naruto had fallen silent. He was busy with all the kissing before, now he had other things on his mind... but more then that.

So he came, with a low liquid sound in the deepest part of his throat, a faint vibration ringing through the arc of his spine. Somewhere, the Kyuubi was uncurling his tails, just under Naruto's skin. It was Sakura's imagination, but she could feel the demon reaching through this exact moments. Not always, but sometimes, a little flash of fangs and claws.

And then he was chuckling softly under his breath, grinning like he'd just gotten away with- yeah, pretty close to a threesome. Hinata was flushed bright pink against her wide white eyes. He was nuzzling Hinata's chest, and Sakura was torn between swatting him again, or just reverently stroking his cheek, wrapping him up in her arms, small and only slightly effective as they were. It wasn't like she could heal everything. And it wasn't just the pregnancy hormones, making her feel this way. He was yanking her down with him, into his tight bearhug, against his slowing heartbeat.

Hinata did allow herself to be pulled closer. She allowed herself to be kissed by both them, as they took slow turns kissing one another, then her. Slow, half-turns, and Hinata could stop them anytime she liked. It wasn't that strange to touch another woman's body. In the end it just turned into a tangle of hands, and fingers, and pressed lips, open mouths, flickers of wetness over hot skin.

Maybe they were all a little drunk. Maybe there were things going on in Hinata's life that she wasn't telling them about necessarily. They hadn't told her about the Kyuubi, and the three miscarriages- damn it- lost pregnancies. They were friends, but there were things that were still kept silent.. and Hinata had her own team to go back to.

At the end, maybe, there was a moment when they all coiled up together, Naruto's blond spiky head buried between her thighs, Naruto buried in Sakura, and Sakura's fingers as intertwined as his, Hinata's hands clutching her shoulders. Who could tell who's hand was who's really? Who had the time to notice? But there was no screaming, no growling. It was hushed, Sakura bit her lip, and Hinata hid her face in Sakura's hair. Sakura heard her rising gasps, wondered if maybe she shouldn't tell Naruto to take it easy on the poor girl. She felt him tense under her, shiver. The pleasure unwound itself and came to a close. A tangle, a mess.. All three of them sprawled on the living room floor, their cheap apartment because they were paid well enough to afford one kid, but they were still too junior to be making decent money.

"You miss him.." Hinata said, her hair disheveled and her eyes closed. She was lying on Naruto's chest, Sakura was lying tucked under his other arm, and they faced one another across his heart, the spiral seal under their hands. Not by intention, not on Sakura's part. But that seemed to be where Hinata's hand was drawn, and it was where he was hot to the touch. And this was unexpected..

Not that it should have been, for a girl like Hinata who saw so much, and sometimes showed a little razor glitter of sharp insight. It wasn't that the subject was verboten, either, they had talked about him, they had to almost talk around him, because there was nothing to say. Sakura would say that yes, they missed him. She wouldn't say that it still hurt, that the hurt was a dull ache now, ever-present. Naruto would say 'he'll be back,' and try to wring a joke out of it. Neither of them would go any deeper then that. It wasn't that they couldn't discuss it with Hinata, who was a close friend, but it was almost shameful. It was too complicated and difficult. Of course they missed him. It was still strange to hear Hinata mention Sasuke.

"Do you feel like there's something missing?"

Hinata was whispering, and Sakura opened her eyes to pay attention, because there was something there, she frowned, and her analytical wits kicked into gear before her manners could.

"You think we need a third person around.." she sighed.

But she wasn't angry, and she could hear how she sounded. Bone-tired. It was worse, somehow, because Naruto stirred immediately and curled his warm arm around her. And then there was his warm whisper 'Sakura-chan... Sakura-chan..' And maybe they were embarrassing Hinata because there was something so intimate about how he said it. There was his playful fun affection that he showed all day, then there was this fierce, deep, desperate affection, the kind that was meant for their locked bedroom. There wasn't time or space for that much feeling in a hard, brutal job like theirs. Not by daylight. Hinata's eyes just turned softer, and more distant. You couldn't really tell with her sometimes. Sakura watched just a bit too long, and Hinata blushed. She looked away, embarrassed now. But for what, her insight?

Maybe they did just feel some deep empty hole, something that made them lonely, strangely, even in one another's arms. Even though somehow that shared loneliness made them cling closer.

Sometimes, when it was late like this, and they'd finished eating, and they'd emptied the sake bottle, they'd come close to this. Sometimes Naruto would almost talk about Sasuke. They'd talk about the empty space where Sasuke was. Hinata probably was right.

And for that matter, she and Naruto hadn't really thought that hard about why they wanted a child. They just wanted one, they said they were happy. They were. They wanted.. something.. they would chase Sasuke to the ends of the earth. to death do them part.. and.. oh, hell.. maybe the child was just another way, another substitution.

But did people really think this hard? Sakura wanted to give Naruto a family of his own, and he wanted to give her the same.. was that so difficult?

"I want you to be happy, too." Hinata said softly. She sat up and her hair flowed off Naruto's chest. She brushed it back into place with her fingers, like a little bird fluffing it's feathers. It was a strange contrast to her words. Sakura really didn't want to be sad tonight, she didn't want all this melancholy.

"...bastard, doesn't even have to be here and he still kills the mood..." Naruto said, yawning into his hand. His tone was wry, almost silly. But he was faking it and he could feel the tension too. He'd seen Hinata's slow, sad smile.

She bowed her head and her hair unraveled itself in smooth little waves, falling down into her face, into her graceful, formal, half-bow. Killing them with manners.. though Sakura knew that Hinata was being gentle, it still stung a bit.

"That's why I can be your friend," Hinata said. "But I can't do this for you."

You couldn't argue with that kind of reasoning. Sakura felt Naruto let his breath out in a long gust, his chest deflating under her ear.

"We understand." Sakura said. She closed her eyes against the soft incandescent light and the warm, familiar chakra signals of her house, her husband... Naruto twisting that long sigh into a recovery, a wiseass joke, a warm smile at Hinata, preparing something he could say to make it all better.

"Aw, Hinata-chan.." he wheedled, but the look he shot Sakura over Hinata's head, as he pulled her down into her arms, and she squeaked in surprise...

...was sad, and sheepish, and Sakura grabbed his other hand and squeezed it.


They had meant well. She had meant well. It had been about making Hinata feel wanted, loved... oh, hell.. never mind. Maybe they had no right to be involved with anyone but eachother. They loved one another, and that love was true and real, but they were still messed up over Sasuke. That was just as real. "Busted." Naruto mouthed to her, as Hinata gathered herself up, and patted her clothes back into order. Sakura could only look back just as sheepishly. But it was probably all right, Hinata was handling it. Sakura sighed, and got her own shirt back on. She yanked at the hem of Naruto's boxers, making him snicker, deflate the tension.

"I understand." Hinata said. There was nothing fake or desperate about Hinata's smile. It was okay. It was kind of stupid of them, maybe, but they were forgiven. And it was silently, tacitly, becoming something that they had agreed upon, done once, and- while it was nice- would not do again.

"So, coffee?" Sakura said, taking control of the situation again. Naruto made it, and made it way too strong as usual- on purpose. Sakura watched him spoon way too much sugar into his cup and rolled her eyes... and Hinata giggled behind her hand. Sakura re-loaded the dishwasher- the right way this time- and Naruto cleared the table, and clowned for Hinata, and secretly for Sakura, she could see. Hinata sat on the other side of the counter and drank coffee demurely, because she was a guest and she didn't have to do anything, that was Sakura's rule. It was going to be okay. Things were back to normal. Hinata would go back to her own team. They'd have to rethink the kids issue, maybe... Sakura sighed, and Naruto snuck up behind her and buried her in his arms, growling theatrically in her ear.

Sakura caught the edge of longing in Hinata's eyes as she watched. But Hinata was right, it wasn't the same. For either of them.

They kissed her at the door. Hinata stood on her tiptoes and raised her face for Naruto's half-silly kisses. Then she turned to Sakura. She stood very still as Sakura kissed her forehead. As Sakura pulled away, she said "I'm sorry."

"It's okay." Naruto said, on reflex, Sakura knew. He leaned against the door, yawning into his hand. Relaxed. On the surface. "We just had too much to drink." Sakura thought that was as good of a cover story as any.

"We're still friends." Hinata said solemnly. Then she smiled her usual shy smile, bowed, and thanked them for the evening. Sakura said goodnight for both of them, then closed the door.

Naruto dropped the act, ran one scuffed hand over his eyes, sighing.

Sakura sighed, and leaned against him, leaned into the warm tangle of his arms. They still had one another. They had everything they'd had before, warmth and love and one another, the strength to put their team back together again. Enough determination and silliness and focus and everything they'd need, between them. If Naruto couldn't make this okay right this second, then Sakura would.

"Don't look at me," she murmured to him, feigning disapproval. "It was your idea!"

They sealed up most of their empty spaces with a shared secret of conspiratorial laugher. It would do until they pulled Sasuke back, and sealed them up for good.