I decided to take a break from my usual GaaSaku and came up with this short fic for my second favourite pairing. Neji really is difficult to write so I hope I managed to pull him off. This fits within the series of two-shots I've been writing recently... I'll be putting the second part up soon.
I'll be returning to my other fics in a bit so I hope you enjoy this in the meantime.
Sakura ran through the halls as if death itself was following close on her heels. She passed many surprised shinobi, mostly assistants of the Hokage, but she ignored their calls and surprised yells as she scampered for some kind of refuge while clutching the file she was holding to her chest.
She couldn't believe this had happened.
She simply couldn't believe it.
After carefully avoiding to open her big mouth for months, after making sure that she kept her thoughts to herself and didn't let anyone else know about her feelings… she had to go and blurt it out in the worst possible moment.
Rounding a corner, she made her way into an office she knew would be empty and closed the door, locking it behind her. Not that it would do her much good if he decided to follow. He was Konoha's top ANBU Captain, after all.
Sighing dejectedly, Sakura proceeded to throw the folder upon the vacant desk inside the empty room and sat down on the chair behind it. She buried her face in her hands while trying to convince herself that things would be alright. It had been a joke, something she had said in jest. No one would be stupid enough to take it seriously. Would they?
Thinking about the traditional Hyuuga family and their stuck-up ways, she wasn't so sure.
'Damn you, sensei,' Sakura cursed inwardly, wanting to blame the Hokage for assigning her to the task that had led to her downfall.
Tsunade-sama had asked a group of medic nins to go over the medical files of Konoha's ANBU squad. It was time for them to update the information in the archives and they would have to include a recent medical check-up of all the ninjas on the hunter nin team. Since they were the ones that had the most complicated and difficult missions in all of Konoha, it was essential for them to be in their best condition. Thus, the Hokage had asked Sakura to supervise the task and had given her a group of medics to help her complete it.
They had been going over the files this morning and had been dividing them between them so that everyone got an equal number of shinobi to examine. They had already gone through most of the folders and only the Captains where left to hand out. It was then that Yuriko, seeing that there were only females in the room at the time, had spoken up.
"Some of these Captains are cute, don't you think?" she said with a mischievous smile. "How about we make a draw to see who we get?"
The female medics had laughed at that and Sakura, shaking her head at their antics, didn't see anything wrong with the idea. As long as they got the job done, it didn't matter who went over who's file. But while some of the girls started writing down the names of the male Captains down on small pieces of paper before folding them, the pink haired kunoichi couldn't help glancing at Hyuuga Neji's folder from the corner of her eye.
Almost every single female resident in Konoha, and some of the males too, thought that the skilled ANBU Captain was the most handsome man in the entire village. And those who didn't think so certainly agreed that he was among the top five. Neji had always been the object of admiration of many women, despite his calculating and stoic ways, and had been one of the most sought-after bachelors in Konoha for many years.
Despite this fact, he seemed to be oblivious to the reactions he caused among the female population and he concentrated solely on his missions, attaining jounin level in what seemed a blink of an eye and had broken more records in ANBU than any other shinobi in history.
It was said that he was the right hand of Death, the whisper of a breeze that announced his target's demise seconds before their breathing came to a halt. A shadow with raven black hair that blended with the night effortlessly as he went about his bloody tasks, a merciless glint shining from his silver eyes.
And thus, being female, Sakura couldn't exactly help being affected by his allure.
It had actually come as a revelation…something which she hadn't expected in her entire life. The pink haired kunoichi had always been proud of the way she had matured, of the way she had left her love-sick days behind. It was actually embarrassing to think of the way she had trailed after Sasuke when she was younger and how she had basically grovelled at his feet. She had been incredibly stupid back then and it had taken a harsh lesson for her realize the errors of her behaviour.
The Uchiha's betrayal had opened her eyes in more than one way.
Still, it had taken her some time to come to terms with the fact that she had more than just a passing interest in the Hyuuga prodigy and the realization had hit her hard. Sakura had thought herself 'cured' from experiencing those kinds of feelings for a man but it seemed that her heart had other ideas… especially when her body came in close proximity to the Captain and she could see his ANBU tattoo adorning the exquisite muscles of his upper arm. Due to the bonds of friendship of their little group, the pink haired kunoichi usually encountered Neji at casual dinners or other social gatherings and she didn't have any problems when it came to striking up a conversation with him. He was a responsible and extremely polite man; a shinobi that didn't hesitate to put himself on the line for the people he cared for. The silver eyed jounin was, underneath his cold façade, a very caring friend and she could honestly say she had a genuine friendship with him. She also respected him as professional since she had gone out on several missions under his command. His natural ability to lead and to provoke loyalty in his team was something she had always admired.
Especially because of all this, she refused to behave like all those insipid women out there that chased after him or that gave him lascivious looks whenever they had the chance. They were a perfect mirror of the girl she had been years back and she refused to resume such idiotic behaviour. She was a 20 year old kunoichi now and an extremely successful medic… such antics were completely below her. She wasn't about to spoil a sincere friendship with the Hyuuga just because her heart skipped a beat whenever she found his silver eyes gazing at her when they talked. It was pointless.
Thus, she had decided to keep quiet about the whole thing and not make a fuss about it. Sure, Neji was handsome and attractive, there was no denying that, but she wasn't about to put herself on the line because of some stupid infatuation that wouldn't lead to anything. She would get over it soon enough and that was that.
But her heart had a tendency of being treacherous and just when she thought she had put things behind her, it launched forward and caught her off guard.
Which was exactly what had happened this morning.
After the papers with the names of the Captains had been shuffled, young Fuka had spoken up on her behalf.
"Wait, I think we should let Sakura-san have her pick," she had said happily, "then we can make the draw."
The others had enthusiastically agreed for her to have this 'privilege', doing nothing to hide their admiration for their supervisor. Sakura had trained many of them when they were becoming medic nins and they had always been grateful for her guidance and support.
As much as she had tried to hide her sudden elation, the pink haired kunoichi had smiled and stepped towards the table where the files were stashed. They were between girls, weren't they? It wouldn't do any harm.
"Well, if that's the case," she said with a devious grin, "I think I'll take Captain Hyuuga." With that, she picked up Neji's file and flipped through it casually.
The girls giggled.
"Ahhh, Sakura-san, I wanted his file," Yuriko said teasingly, pouting a little.
"Sorry dear," the pink haired kunoichi said before she could stop herself, "I'm really looking forward to giving him a 'personal' medical check up…"
She let her words hang in the air, making some of them blush with her implied meaning.
"Well, well, Sakura, it seems you girls are having fun," a male voice sounded from the vicinity of the doorway.
All the medics whipped their heads around towards the open double doors of the large room, only to find Kiba, along a few other ANBU members, standing there, looking at them with scheming grins on their lips. It seemed they had overheard the conversation.
It wouldn't have been so bad if the man Sakura had been talking about hadn't been leaning against the door frame casually, dressed in his hunter-nin uniform, his onyx hair falling from a high pony tail across one shoulder, his arms crossed over his chest. His face didn't reveal any emotion and his piercing silver eyes were looking directly at her with an unfathomable expression.
'Kami-sama, HELP ME!' Sakura pleaded inside her mind. She could feel a fierce blush starting to creep from her cheeks to the roots of her hair.
It was officially the end of the world and there was nothing she could do to prevent her demise.
But she couldn't let her end come so swiftly, she refused to go down like this. For a few agonizing seconds, silence reigned inside the room and the pink haired girl thought she really was going to die.
But she hadn't been the Godaime's apprentice for many long years and she hadn't attained jounin level herself for nothing. Summoning her inner strength and the control that had allowed her to live through many life-threatening situations, Sakura did the only thing that could save her.
She threw her head back and laughed.
"Yes, we are Kiba," she said between chuckles. "Medic nins need to have fun from time to time too, don't you think?"
She hoped that her laughter had come out genuinely enough and she prayed that no one in the room had noticed how much she had forced it. It had been her only escape and if her strategy didn't work, she was going to be buried 6 feet under in a few moments. Seemingly they hadn't perceived anything and the tension that had filled the air a few seconds ago had been dispersed with the way she had made light of things.
"What are you doing here?" Sakura asked, not wanting Kiba to ask any more questions about what they had been previously talking about.
"Tsunade-sama said you guys needed to give us some check ups, so she sent us down here," the Dog Master answered with a grin.
"Well, it's a bit early for that since we've actually just divided your files between us but I guess we can manage," she said before turning towards her fellow medics. "Team, I want you to check which of you have files of the ANBU present here and give them priority. After you make sure that everything's in order, you can proceed with the check-ups."
And with that, Sakura started making her way towards the door, unaware that she was still clutching Neji's file in her hands.
"Sakura-san, what about you?" brown eyed Mikoto asked.
"There's some things I need to take care of first, I'll come back later," she said in the most authoritative voice she could manage. She simply needed to get out of there and put some distance between herself and the ANBU Captain that was still leaning against the door frame, looking thoughtful. He hadn't said a word during all this time and Sakura simply wanted to disappear. She simply didn't have the courage to face him… at least not now.
Thus, when she had cleared the door and passed mere inches from where he was standing while avoiding his eyes at all times, she made her way hurriedly down the corridor. When she turned the corner and was out of sight, she bolted and fell into a run, trying to get away from the judging stare of those silver orbs.
Now, she was locked up in an office inside the Hokage's building and wanted to stay there for the rest of the day. She simply wouldn't be able to face him… she simply couldn't. She hoped against hope that he had taken it as a joke, just like all the others had and that he wouldn't think less of her for it.
After sitting in silent torment for almost 20 minutes, she breathed out deeply and leaned back against the chair, glancing at the folder in front of her. It really did her no good to worry… what was done, was done. If Neji was going to judge her for the things she had said, so be it… it had been her fault for letting her guard down and giving in to her weakness. She would have to face the consequences eventually and it would probably mean that their friendship would go down the drain.
She tried to swallow past the lump that suddenly formed in her throat at the thought and tried to disperse such depressive ideas from her mind. Mustering her resolve, the pink haired medic decided that she needed to concentrate on the job at hand and leaned forward to pick up the Hyuuga's file.
Due to her big mouth, she was now stuck with him for the remainder of her task and the least she could do was be professional about it. Thus, she leaned forward and started to go over the contents of the folder, making sure that everything was in order.
Neji didn't need to activate his Byakugan to know when a shinobi was making a full retreat. It was as easy as reading the body language of a man, or a woman in this case, to know when they were running for their lives.
If the way Haruno Sakura had clutched the folder, his folder, in her hands with a white-knuckled grip said anything, it was clear that she had been nothing short of using a smoke bomb to make her escape. This, in turn, spoke volumes against the casual way she had behaved concerning the conversation the ANBU members, including himself, had overheard and thus, it was only logical to conclude that the words she had uttered about giving him a 'personal' check up were absolutely true.
If Neji had been any other man, he would have been laughing at the situation.
So that's what she thought of him… how very interesting.
The Hyuuga prodigy had never been interested in women mainly because there were no females worthy of his time in the whole of Konoha. Most of them were brainless twits that threw themselves on the first handsome man to cross their path. They were incompetent and useless shinobi, fit only for the simplest of missions. Their incessant and annoying chatter was something he had had to put up with on countless missions in which he had been forced to include them on his team. It had driven him almost to the brink of madness and when he had become Captain, he had adamantly told the Hokage that he would always choose his teams personally from then on.
In the whole village, he could count the kunoichi who were smart, competent and exceedingly skilled shinobi with the fingers of his hands.
Curiously enough, Haruno Sakura was one of them.
Any idiot with eyes would notice her beauty immediately, but Neji's silver orbs always managed to see beyond that. Along with Tenten, the pink haired medic was the only other female in the village who was capable of going head on against Lee in a taijutsu fight. He had seen her train with 'Konoha's Beautiful Green Beast' and had seen the way she combined her moves skilfully with the inhuman strength she possessed. Neji had seen her knock away the ground beneath Lee's feet, literally, and witnessed how she had forced him to use some of the techniques he reserved only for when he was fighting against the toughest of opponents. Not only was she a skilled fighter, but she had a keen intellect to match her combat ability and was said to have surpassed her sensei, the great Tsunade-sama herself, in many of the medical jutsus required of a medic nin.
All in all, Sakura was the embodiment of the perfect kunoichi, a fact that hadn't gone unnoticed by the Hyuuga… or many other men for that matter. Even though she seemed to be completely oblivious to it, the pink haired medic had managed to leave a trail of admirers in her wake. Her sweet and compassionate personality naturally gave comfort and support to others, especially in her profession and the people around her simply couldn't help but care for her. Neji had overheard his team members have many conversations about her during missions and even though he had never joined in, he silently agreed with what they said about her.
Sakura was a jewel among Konoha's female ninjas and only a fool would waste an opportunity to be the object of her affection.
Hyuuga Neji was anything but a fool.
Even though he didn't show it, the ANBU Captain had felt a certain attraction towards the cherry haired kunoichi ever since their mission to Suna a few years back. They had helped save the Kazekage and his brother Kankurou from the clutches of death and the way Sakura had shown her true medic vocation had been something that had left Neji in awe. They had become good friends since then and the prodigy considered himself lucky to know her the way he did.
However, he had never really thought about pursuing the magnetism he felt for her any further, especially when everyone knew that Sakura had been deeply in love with Uchiha Sasuke. Neji had admitted his attraction towards her and had left it at that, giving priority to his ANBU tasks and his training, putting her in the back of his mind.
But her infatuation with the Uchiha had been years ago and now, she had basically confessed in front of everyone that she was attracted to him. If that wasn't a direct invitation, Neji didn't know what was. The way she had admitted it had forced that deeply buried attraction he had kept aside to come to the fore and Neji was suddenly seeing things under a different light… under the light of possibility.
It was something worth thinking about especially when he really couldn't deny the fact that his eyes had a tendency to glace at her legs whenever she was in the room. Those boots she wore had a knack for attracting a man's attention.
He would definitely need to give this situation some keen deliberation.
Leaving his position at the door, he moved casually into the room, locating the nearest medic nin and making his way towards her.
"I assume you need my file to proceed with the check ups," he said to the young girl.
"Y-yes sir," Mikoto replied, blushing slightly at being addressed by Konoha's top ANBU Captain.
"I'll return later then, since I noticed that my folder has been involuntary abducted," he said wryly, slight humour in his voice.
Mikoto's blush intensified but she smiled in return.
Turning around, Neji walked out of the room and made his way to the building's entrance. The morning sun was shining and it was the perfect weather to get some training done with Tenten and Lee. Heading towards the exercise grounds he couldn't help a smile from forming on his lips as he allowed thoughts of a certain cherry haired kunoichi to fill his mind while he walked.
Oh yes, he would certainly be returning later for his promised check-up
The world hadn't ended when she walked back into the room where her team was assembled and Sakura was more than happy to find that Neji wasn't anywhere to be seen. She could suddenly breathe again and after Mikoto had told her that the Captain had said he would return later, the pink haired medic decided that she would work as efficiently as possible so she could avoid him when he came in this afternoon.
She went over the files that had been assigned to her with unbelievable speed, making sure that all the necessary information was there and collecting the papers that were missing before proceeding with the next step of the task. In total, she needed to give medical check-ups to 10 ANBU, Neji included, and luckily enough, 5 of them had already been sent over by Tsunade-sama. Smiling at her good fortune, Sakura led the 3 men and 2 women down to the specialized infirmary of the Hokage's building and spent the early afternoon doing her medical examinations.
Once she was done, she gathered up the files and decided she would update them at home. Placing the 5 folders of the shinobi she had just assessed inside her satchel, she closed the door to the infirmary office she had been using and started walking down the hall.
Why are you running away from him? Inner Sakura asked as she climbed the stairs that would lead to one of the side entrances of the building.
'I am not running away,' she replied, 'I am making a strategic retreat.'
I thought we had done that this morning! Her inner persona complained.
Sakura groaned miserably at the memory. 'That was simply unavoidable.'
No it wasn't. You could've looked him straight in the eye and backed up your words.
The pink haired medic almost choked at the thought of walking up to the Hyuuga and telling him that she wanted to get into his pants right in his face. Coughing loudly, she tried to recover but gained some strange looks from people walking by inside the building.
'Yeah, like that was an option! Are you insane?'
No I'm not. He was looking directly at you… and there was something weird in his gaze.
'He was probably planning my execution!'
Inner Sakura rolled her eyes but remained silent after that.
The pink haired kunoichi reached the entrance by then and started walking down the street, wanting to reach the refuge of her apartment as soon as possible. It was clear that her inner persona was delusional and the idea of Neji actually looking at her with something apart from murder in his eyes was completely ludicrous. She had gone over the possibility of him reciprocating her feelings lots of times before and every time she did, she always came up with countless conclusions as to exactly why it simply couldn't happen.
She refused to torture herself further by reminding her inner persona of all the reasons why the Captain didn't think of her as anything else but a friend… and now, after the earlier events of the day, she wasn't even sure if he still considered her in that way anymore!
But as she made her way down the road, walking among the throng of people that always populated Konoha's streets, Sakura realized that maybe it had been for the best. If Neji decided to keep his distance and stay clear of her, she might be able to forget him and bury these useless feelings she had for him once and for all. Her infatuation had clearly been nothing else but a fantasy and it was time that she admitted that.
Sighing miserably, Sakura turned a corner and headed in the direction of her neighbourhood. She simply couldn't understand why her heart persisted in pursuing such feelings for men with which she simply never stood a chance. She guessed it was a conditioned reaction and something she simply could not stop.
'Well, I've gotten over worse,' she thought, trying to be positive. But try as she might, she couldn't help but drag her feet a little as she went along her way.
When you joined ANBU, you were taught how to hunt. You were taught all kinds of pursuing techniques, all kinds of approaches that would weaken your adversary, physically and mentally, so that when the time came for you to engage them in that final combat, your victory was assured.
But before you did any of that, you needed to gain information… to know your enemy better than you knew yourself. His teachers had always told him to study his prey before hunting it down; to get to know their weaknesses, to know their strengths and to get to know their behaviour well before forcing a confrontation.
Neji had always excelled as a student and as such, he was applying everything he had been taught to the hunt in which he found himself now.
Perched just below a rooftop and partially hidden by some hanging laundry, he studied the movements of his prey as she made her way casually down the market street below, stopping to talk to vendors more often than not. He noted the way she smiled and the way she moved her hands expressively when she talked. He also noticed the way she stood whenever the price of a product didn't suit her, biting her lip and creasing her eyebrows. But he also perceived the way she basically beamed whenever she found something she liked and how she had a tendency to stop at every jewellery stand she found, her emerald eyes alight with pleasure at the merchandize she saw.
He knew that if anyone caught him, they would certainly label him as a stalker and he would probably have some explaining to do. But he wasn't the best for nothing and he knew that even if someone were to catch him up here, partially hanging from a roof and perched upon someone else's balcony while hidden behind a white sheet, Neji was sure they wouldn't dare to ask what he was up to.
Questioning Konoha's top ANBU Captain about his personal business wasn't something anyone would do if they wanted to live.
Either way, Sakura had actually brought this upon herself and the Hyuuga prodigy was extremely happy with his planned methods of retaliation.
She had been avoiding him the past few days… something which had annoyed him to no end.
Neji had been thinking about her constantly and the more he thought about her, the more the latent attraction he had for her stirred. After reviewing the situation from every possible angle, he had decided that he really had nothing to lose. Thus, he had decided to play his game right and to throw his cards on the table just to see what Sakura would do with them. Depending on her reaction, he would work from there. He would give her the chance of making her decisions herself, respecting her integrity and allowing her make her own conclusions from the advances he was planning to throw her way.
With his mind made up, he had gone back to the Hokage's building three times to get his check-up since Tsunade-sama had told him that this task was top priority for the medic team under Sakura's supervision. Thus, he had been more than willing to cooperate and had actually been looking forward to meeting the cheery haired kunoichi head on. His hopes were hampered, however, when he walked into the infirmary and had been politely told that they couldn't proceed with his examination because his file was in Haruno-san's hands and unfortunately, she was nowhere to be found. One time, he could understand; twice, well, sometimes coincidences happened… but three times in a row? It was simply too much.
The Hyuuga prodigy had actually snapped at the medic nin that had sent him away the last time, even though he knew it wasn't her fault. Still, his annoyance at the supposed 'supervisor' of this task had quickly risen to the surface and what made matters worse was the fact that Neji knew that Sakura was avoiding him on purpose. He was aware of this knowledge because he knew that some of his ANBU comrades had already been examined by her and had updated their files successfully without any problems.
It seemed that Dr. Haruno was having personal issues with him… it was definitely time to change his 'passive' strategy.
After he had calmed himself somewhat after some vigorous training, Neji became aware that she was obviously having issues with the admission she had previously made about her attraction towards him. From the way she was behaving the prodigy now knew that he would have to make some significant effort on his part.
Luckily, a plan was already forming inside his mind and nudging her forward was, in fact, something he could genuinely look forward to. He had many ANBU techniques up his sleeve which could make a grown man break under pressure and if this little pink haired medic thought she would be able to escape him, he would thoroughly enjoy himself in proving her wrong. The chance he had initially intended to give her of allowing her to make her decisions herself had been promptly flushed down the drain in view of the current circumstances.
There was usually more than one road to achieve a certain goal and well, if Haruno Sakura has inadvertently chosen the most difficult road for herself by behaving in the way she did, so be it. Neji had always been a patient man, which meant that he was usually merciless when it came to his tactics of retaliation. He was very adept at using a person's weakness against them and when it came to Sakura, he truly did have the upper hand. From what he had discerned from her words, he knew that his body was her weak point and he had no qualms in using it against her.
As a matter of fact, he would greatly enjoy doing just that.
A cat-like grin formed on his lips as his silver eyes watched her walk down the street directly beneath him. The sooner he put his plans into actions, the better. Moving away from his initial position on silent feet, Neji descended from his vantage point and landed some distance away from where Sakura had stopped to buy some groceries. From the direction she was going, she would have no choice but to walk past him. He knew that if she spotted him, she would try to make a retreat and head in the opposite direction but he wasn't about to give her that chance. Hiding behind a food stand, the raven haired jounin waited patiently for her to approach, doing nothing to hide the predatory glint in his silver orbs.
No one ever dared to avoid a Hyuuga… no one.
And Neji would make sure that Haruno Sakura learned that lesson well.
I'll put up the second part to this ASAP. Thanks for reading!