Posted: 03/04/07

Game
Act 2:

The situation had never felt more awkward. And it was Naruto, damn it. Since when were they uncomfortable with each other?

Her head cracked.

Sakura winced. "Ah..."

She massaged her temples with her free hand. The thought of using chakra to kill the headache had not occured to her.

"Um, Sakura-chan?" The blond called hesitantly.

Despite herself, she tensed. He was next to her. When did he hang up on the phone?

When did he get near her without her sensing it, for that matter?

Her grip on the sheet she held up to her chest tightened a little.

That little movement did not escape Naruto's eyes.

"...here." He kneeled next to the bed, holding out a cup of water and a sealed pack of ten tablets. Most had been eaten, she noted absently, there was only three pills remaining. "For the headache, Sakura."

Her gaze traveled. He had already put on his pants, although shirtless. She tried not to look at his bare flesh.

Then she paused.

Sakura?

She glanced up into his guarded blue eyes.

Guarded, cautious, unreadable. Something sunk in her stomach.

It suddenly struck her that, somehow, somewhere along the way, things had changed between them.

He was never on guard around her. He never called her just Sakura. But that was the past. That was a few hours ago.

Her head throbbed.

Holding her head gingerly, she took the packet from him, digging a tablet out with a finger, and left the pack on the bed.

Pressing it on her tongue, she reached for the water, and drank it all, swallowing the pill. She hadn't realised how thirsty she was.

He took the cup from her gently, and left for the kitchen.

All of it was still sinking in for both of them, she knew.

When she literally screamed his name, he had stumbled off the bed, backpedalling with an expression of a deer caught in a headlight. She had been pretty sure her look mirrored his.

Then they stared at each other, disbelief and shock on their faces. For a few seconds, they had been silent, before the ringing phone jerked both of them out of their astonishment - and Sakura tore her gaze away from him as he scrambled to pick up the phone.

"Who the hell is this?" He snapped into the phone.

"..."

"Wha? Whaddya mean it's..."

"..."

"But that's.."

Sakura zoned out the rest of the conversation between an agitated Naruto and the other person - whoever it was - on the phone then, and with forced calmness, thought back what happened.

She remembered. She had seen desire in those eyes last night. She didn't stop him.

He had touched her everywhere. Everywhere. With his hands, eyes, lips.

And she didn't hate it.

Oh, god.

The throb at the back of her head dulled. Shaking her head in a try to clear her thoughts, she curled the sheet around her, stepped away from the bed, picked up her clothes, and locked herself in the bathroom.

Naruto hadn't said anything, but she could feel his eyes boring into her.

God god godgodgodgodgod..

She felt sore all over. Especially down there, in between her legs, and...

Knock, knock.

She jumped.

"Sakura?" Naruto's muffled voice came from outside the toilet.

"Y-yes!" She felt something terrible churning in her stomach. Sakura. Not Sakura-chan. Sakura.

"...The old hag just called me to go to her office, so..."

An awkward pause.

The pink-haired chuunin did not know if she wanted to thank Tsunade for her timely interference. He was still oddly silent, before she suddenly realised he was waiting for her reply.

"Ah, okay. I.." Words stuck in her throat. She pinched herself, willing the pain to clear her mind. "...I will see you later."

"...Yeah."

Feet shuffled to the other door with fading footsteps.

Click.

Her tense shoulders relaxed slightly, and she let out a sigh.

Dressing quickly, her nose wrinking slightly at her crumpled clothes and odor of alcohol, she stepped out of the bathroom to the scent of...ramen?

Her eyes fell to the small dining table.

A cup of cooked instant ramen with a pair of chopsticks was there on the table, waiting for her. A set of spare keys, too.

Naruto..

The other raised an eyebrow at him. "Dude, you look horrible."

He was. There were dark rings under his eyes, his hear was even more mussed than usual, his clothes were wrinkled and crooked, alcohol literally radiated off him, and he smelled slightly of sweat and perspiration.

He grunted.

Kiba could smell it from a distance away, let alone a foot from him.

Akamaru let out a bark.

The dog-man paused. Then sniffed at him.

And sniffed again for good measure, ignoring the glower coming from the blond.

Then a sly grin formed on his face. "You dog! Who's the lucky girl?"

Actually, Kiba recognized the feminine scent on Naruto, but decided - perhaps wisely though he may not have realised it - to feign ignorance.

"Don't know what you're talking about," Naruto growled, sidestepping and walking - or stomping - into the Hokage's tower.

"Man, you are cranky. Kept you all night?"

Naruto stopped dead in his tracks, turned around, and snarled. "Kiba, one more word..."

Of course, Kiba wasn't impressed by the veiled threat. "Must have been good, huh? I mean, if you are this tired - "

"Kiba - "

"I'm curious, you know. How many times?"

"Kiba - "

"Did she scream?"

"KIBA, I WILL KILL YOU, BASTARD - "

He snickered, hopping onto Akamaru just before Naruto's punch landed on his face, and the duo dashed off.

"See ya later when you are not so cranky, Naruto!"

"KIBAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

Naruto had every intentions of chasing after Kiba, but a hand grabbed him by the collar and held him back.

He turned around, swiped at the offending hand and missed as it let go. The blond snarled.

"What the hell do you think you are doing, Neji?"

"Saving you from being pummeled to the ground by the Hokage." Like Kiba, the white-eyed man did not bat an eye at the dangerous growl forming on Naruto's face. "You got a meeting with Hokage-sama, Uzumaki. Get moving."

A pause.

"And," Neji said without missing a beat, "Perhaps you should tone down your activities if it makes you dyspeptic in the morning."

For a moment, Naruto faltered. "Dyspep - what?"

Neji snorted in a way that told him to find out himself, gesturing towards the tower before disappearing.

Naruto scowled at the empty space before him, before stomping loudly into the tower, muttering curses under his breath.

Then he whirled around, and shouted at the empty space before him.

"Whaddya mean 'ACTIVITIES'?"

Sakura sneezed.

That was the third time in a row. She frowned. Was someone talking about her?

She shook her head. She was sweaty, she was sore all over, and she needed a bath. She certainly did not want to wonder why someone would be talking about her. Her night before was considerably rough, and...

She flushed.

The pink haired girl glanced at the clock. It was late in the morning, and she needed to be at the hospital sometime soon.

She wanted to check up on her former sensei, too.

Here, her thoughts turned dark. Kakashi...

She gritted her teeth, trying to steer her thoughts away to elsewhere.

None of that, Sakura. At least he's safe.

But not quite in one piece, a little voice murmured in her mind. Too close, she thought. Too close a call.

Sakura sighed.

She looked at the clock again, half-heartedly planning the schedule for the day, before picking up the keys on the table.

First, she thought, her nose wrinkling, a bath.

She left Naruto's apartment, locked the door, stuffed the keys into her pouch, and jumped up to the roof as her tired muscles protested.

A long, hot bath, Sakura amended, heat rising to her cheeks involuntarily.

She certainly did not notice Ino watching her with two raised eyebrows.


A/N:

Heh. For those who are wondering what dyspeptic means, look up a dictionary. I went through the trouble of digging up a thesaurus to find a suitable word for all-formalities-Neji to use, you know. -snickers-

On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure I worked out Neji's and Kiba's scene too well. Actually, I'm not even sure if this chapter turned out right. Which brings me to a sore point.

I think I'm in need of a beta reader again. Volunteers, anyone?

The way Naruto and Sakura acted is rather anti-climatic, I know. And while I'm sure some of you may have thought Sakura's first reaction is to punch Naruto into the orbits, well...kind of doubt it. I mean, she is hotheaded in the past, but maturity and age tends to mellow things a little. And there's also the little phone ringing thing that prevents both of them from reacting too much.

As for the Sakura-chan to Sakura, I will leave you to imagine what you will for now. The hints I've put in is subtle but not that subtle - or at least I hope I have portrayed it that way - and the way I wrote it may make you misunderstand the reason why there is no -chan in the way Naruto called Sakura now. Whatever you think is the reason for his sudden change, it may not be what you think it is. But like I said, think what you will. XD

Hope this was an enjoyable chapter, people.

Till next time.
Eagle