Ugh, attack of the insomnia. My sleeping habits are so weird now; I'm turning into a bat.
Anyhoo, may the chaos ensue!
"...Naruto, I've known you for many years. And in those many years, you've had a lot of troublesome ideas. But this..." Shikamaru swept a hand across the diagram, "...takes the cake."
Tenten, Kiba, Shino, Chouji, and Hinata, who were the newest additions to THE PLAN, all studied the diagram with dubious expressions. Once Tenten found out Neji was in on the plan, she had joined, and likewise for Chouji and Shikamaru. When Naruto had mentioned the plan to Hinata, she had stammered out something about joining, and of course that meant that Kiba and Shino had to join too.
The original team was also there, but Sasuke was gone. He'd left to sulk awhile ago and hadn't returned, so thankfully he hadn't yet gotten wind of Naruto's plot. Hinata silently worshiped the gods of stupid ideas for letting Sasuke remain in the dark about the plan. If he knew, Hinata was positive her beloved fox ninja would be 6 feet under by now.
Tsunade appraised the diagram with drawn features, strongly reminded of something she had illustrated whilst more drunk than usual. Lines wandered all over the page with no apparent intention of making any sense and Naruto's representations of Sasuke and Sakura left more than a little to be desired.
"I've looked over the diagram ten times and its meaning continues to escape me." Shino added. Naruto grinned and the entire group sighed collectively. They knew that grin all too well. Like Sasuke's various glares and glowers, Naruto's grins each meant one individual form of trouble.
"That's why I'm going to explain. So, here's the plan." Naruto held up the diagram and everyone crowded around it to see better, although it was futile. If Shikamaru couldn't understand it with all his ingenuity then it must be indecipherable. Naruto pointed to a pink blob that could have been either Sakura or a wad of chewing gum. "Neji is going to capture Sakura," Naruto paused to air-quote 'capture', "and leave a note saying he's taken Sakura to have wild sex somewhere."
Neji twitched and his face flushed. Tenten radiated waves of hatred. Naruto grinned, the tension between the bun-head and the other prodigy totally lost on him. "That's where Tenten comes in. Since you're friends with Neji you're going to pretend to have found the note and be totally distraught and catch Bastard's attention. Bastard will flip out at the thought of his precious cherry blossom being captured by Neji, and will want to go kill him. Shikamaru, Shino, and Kiba, you guys will offer to assist him."
Shino and Kiba raised their eyebrows at the significant absence of Hinata to their team. Kiba eyed Naruto suspiciously. "What about Hinata? I work better with her-"
"She's going to be with me!" Naruto clapped a hand on Hinata's back, and the Hyuuga girl fainted. Naruto didn't notice. "Hinata and I are going to be busy helping Chouji to set up a romantic candelit dinner for Bastard and Sakura-chan to come back to. Chouji's good at cooking so we need him."
Chouji nodded proudly.
"Meanwhile, Tsunade, Ino, and Shizune will also go to help stop Sasuke from actually killing Neji and make sure things go as planned."
Shikamaru twitched. "Your explanation makes that drawing even worse. This is more trouble than Sasuke's worth."
Tenten piped up. "Yeah! Why can't Sasuke grow balls?!"
The room fell silent.
"Um... right." Naruto scratched his head. After getting over the initial shock of the image Tenten had provided everyone with, there was shuffling about.
"Well, we're speeding things up for them." Ino snapped. "We all know Sakura has given up on Sasuke and we all also know that Sasuke is...inexperienced."
This seemed to sate everyone for the moment. "Alright! I can't WAIT for the wedding!" Naruto shrieked, pumping his fist. Tsunade cleared her throat.
"So, er, anyone want to maybe place bets on how soon the wedding will be?"
Sasuke's eyes narrowed as his forefinger lightly pressed on the blind: just enough pressure to allow him more vision, but not enough to make it bend noisily and possibly give him away. The sun seemed to have it in for him and was currently shining brightly enough that it was hard to see his target. However, a little sunlight would not deter the last Uchiha, even if he did prefer pitch black darkness anyway.
His target had simply been walking innocently enough back from lunch and to her office, where unbeknownst to her he had been sitting, waiting for her return. He'd managed to distract Tsunade with a trail of sake bottles leading to Jiraiya (and this was the woman they called hokage. Ha!) so that the irritating alcoholic woman couldn't stand in his way any more.
He could just make out Sakura's pink hair bobbing along happily, until she was accosted by Kakashi just before entering the building. Sasuke clenched his fist and let out a low hiss. He'd deal later with the impediment to his mission who currently was making a joke involving what must have been a Naruto impression. Sasuke watched almost hungrily as Sakura laughed, her green eyes crinkling at the corners and her cheeks becoming rosy. Kakashi's face became more serious and he stepped closer to Sakura, taking her arm. Sasuke twitched. Wasn't this the man who had been preaching to him to gather his courage and ask the kunoichi out?
Sakura flushed hotly; it was evident even from Sasuke's post. His face twisted in anger as Kakashi patted Sakura's lower back in a way that was definitely not fatherly, as it should have been in Sasuke's opinion.
...And if it were fatherly, then clearly Kakashi needed to have his definition of "fatherly" straightened out.
Sasuke swore and resolved to "correct" the copy ninja at a later date. For now, he had a mission to complete. He'd ask the pink-haired beauty (well, okay. If he were honest with himself he'd concede to admitting that she wasn't anything special in the way of physical appearance.) out on a date and she'd go with him whether she liked it or not. Although, the thought of her not wanting a date with him was painful and yet the entire reason for all of this ridiculous chaos. What if she didn't want him?
He was forced out of his own world of fears of rejection when he realized that Neji had also walked up to them. What was he doing? Sasuke leaned in closer to see better. Kakashi disappeared and Neji was left alone with Sakura. He gripped her arm and his white eyes gave her the once-over. All of a sudden, Neji clapped a hand on Sakura's delicate shoulder and Sasuke froze, realizing he'd stuck a syringe in her. It must have been a sedative of some sort, because Sakura's knees buckled.
The Hyuuga hoisted the unconscious Sakura onto his back and fled. Sasuke knocked the glass out of the window without a second thought. He had to save Sakura!
But when he looked around, there was no sign of Neji and the object of his affection. Sasuke scowled. Didn't Neji know Sasuke had a mission involving the girl? He had no time for the white-eyed man and whatever he had in mind.
He had just decided on a logical path when he felt a small hand grip the back of his shirt.
"WHAT?!" He yelled, whirling around. Tenten was sobbing. Sasuke twitched. He hated crying women. In fact, he hated people who cried in general. Women also were not a favorite. Except for Sakura.
"N-n-nejiiiii!" She wailed, thrusting a crumpled scroll into Sasuke's hands.
Sasuke scoffed and uncrinkled the note, scanning it.
I am taking Sakura-chan to have wild hot sex with her. Don't follow us to training field #32.
Sasuke looked up and raised an eyebrow at the sobbing weapons mistress. "This is Naruto's handwriting. I don't have time for your ridiculous games." He snapped. Tenten froze and mentally cursed. This was bad. They hadn't counted on this.
Sasuke stormed away, leaving a quivering Tenten.
When Sakura blearily opened her eyes, she was lying in a patch of shade, her head rested comfortably on a pack. She propped herself up and looked around, feeling sluggish and like she had the day after Naruto's last Christmas party. She had consumed enough sake to make her forget everything about that night, which was probably a good thing, and yet at the same time the hangover had been hellish. For a week she had been incapacitated and since then she hadn't touched sake, or dared to step one foot inside of Naruto's parties. If she had lost enough sense to drink that much, who knew what else she had done?
"You're awake. Finally." A familiar voice brought Sakura out of her embarrassed memories and she realized Neji was sitting a few feet away, apparently meditating. Well, not anymore, she thought, feeling guilty.
"What's going on?" She yawned, sitting up. This was probably some bad prank of Naruto's and Neji had somehow gotten dragged into it. Naruto had a knack for coercing people into things they really didn't want to do. Sakura felt more relaxed. The worst that could happen was that Tsunade would be annoyed that she hadn't finished the paperwork for the day.
Sakura narrowed her eyes, trying to recall the moment before she'd fallen out of consciousness. Kakashi had said something cryptic... what was it?
"You don't want to know." Neji himself seemed very sad to know what had happened, and a pained look appeared on his face. "I am never going to help that moron out ever again... next time, he can do things for himself." Neji stood up and walked away, muttering darkly. Sakura rolled her eyes and flopped back onto the ground. The "he" could only be Naruto.
"I know Naruto can be annoying, but he means well..." She called after the retreating figure. Neji stopped and turned around, looking confused.
"I wasn't talking about Naruto."
Before Sakura could ask who he had been talking about, Neji had stormed off and begun training. Oh well. The only other option for who had forced Neji into this was Lee.
But the image of Kakashi drifted into her mind again as she gazed at the fluffy white cumulus clouds making their merry way across the sky. What had he said? Something about... not giving up? His teacher complex was probably bugging him again and he'd just had to give her advice. She smirked. She missed Kakashi and his behavior that on a good day was "quirky." She let out a laugh, remembering how much he had gotten on Sasuke's nerves at times. He would tease him relentlessly, but always for good in the end. And Sasuke would have to grudgingly admit that his sensei was right. Kakashi's ability to convey important life-lessons and messages was insidious and got the Uchiha every time.
They both looked up to see a very panicked Tenten running towards them. Neji ran to meet her and Tenten gripped his arms. "It's not working! He saw through it!" She hissed. The two looked back furtively at Sakura, who had sat up and was eying them warily. With a brain as big as hers, usually she could figure out what was going on right away, but the meaning of this escaped her.
Shizune, Tsunade, and Ino climbed out of a nearby bush and Sakura's eyes bugged out of her head.
"Alright, that's enough. What the hell is going on!?" Inner Sakura was dangerously close to coming out, judging by how red Sakura's face was. Ino shuddered and whispered something to Tsunade, who pulled out a handheld transceiver and muttered into it. Even from her place under the tree, Sakura could tell the person who responded was Naruto.
...Just how many people were involved in this prank anyway?
When a voice that was none other than Shikamaru's was heard, Sakura realized that all of her friends must be in on this. She wondered whether Sasuke was in on it...
"Look... Sakura... don't be mad..." Tenten was wincing and cowering behind Neji as she spoke. Sakura raised her eyebrows. "...But... Naruto thought Sasuke needed a little help... and... well, now we don't know where he is. We were supposed to get him to come after you and rescue you from Neji, but... he didn't fall for it."
Tenten presented Sakura with a crumpled piece of paper. Sakura smoothed it out and read it.
"Is this Naruto's handwriting?"
"Aw, man! She knew it too!" Tenten whined. Tsunade sighed and Neji snorted, but Sakura wasn't amused.
"He thought Sasuke needed help... how?" She asked slowly. Obviously she was dealing with bigger idiots than she'd originally thought and she'd need to take this step by step. The interrogation would take long, but she could handle it.
"Sasuke... I know you're in there. Open up." The soft, feminine voice that seemed to hold the promise of something happy wound its way into Sasuke's darkened apartment. Sasuke's ears pricked at the sound and he sat up. He'd been lying on his couch for hours now, drifting in and out of a troubled sleep. He was positive that his friendship with Sakura had been ruined by Naruto and his band of idiots and now he wondered why in the world she was here now. Why couldn't she just give up on him like a normal person would?
Could he escape through the bathroom window without being seen? Then, of course, there was always the problem of the four-story drop. He scowled at the door. His muscles were weak from intense training and it looked like the only option for him would be to let her in.
Sakura sighed and lifted her hand to knock on the door again when it opened a crack to reveal Sasuke's handsome, but irritated face. He glowered at her.
"What do you want?"
"There you are, Mr. Antisocial!" Sakura laughed, belying her absolutely shaken nerves. They'd told her he wanted to ask her out but was having trouble, and while the logical part of her could believe it once she had examined his behavior in the recent light, the part of her that had always been electrified by the mere mention of his name was terrified. Terrified that this was all some horrible joke. She gathered her courage and pushed her way into the dark apartment.
The two stood by the closed door, shifting awkwardly. When Sakura had pictured the moment where Sasuke confessed his undying love for her, she had imagined it'd be at the end of a romantic date, perhaps on a bench by a pond, underneath the star-dotted sky. She'd be wearing a gorgeous dress that fit her to a T and Sasuke would gaze at her longingly with those intense coal eyes.
At the moment, she was wearing her dirty, grass-stained uniform and Sasuke was sending her scandalized glances while slowly backing away. She looked around his dark apartment and automatically was put closer to being at ease. It was bare and simple, but the smell of coffee wafted from the kitchen and a picture of team 7 hung on the wall. She was sure it had been lonely, living here in solitude for so long, but perhaps—if he really did have feelings—it didn't have to be this way anymore. With a strange tightening in her chest Sakura realized that her apartment wouldn't have to be so lonely anymore either.
"Look... I heard something funny... well, not funny. But you know, interesting, from Naruto and the others." She took a deep breath, about to continue, when Sasuke turned on his heel and stormed off into his bedroom. She could hear him locking the door and she rolled her eyes. Well, no matter whether it was true or not, that was fairly typical Sasuke behavior. She could handle that any day. The part she couldn't handle was that he actually liked her. That his efforts to push her away were due to feelings he didn't know how to deal with confused her. She walked over to the door and leaned against it. She'd just tell him from here and hoped he wouldn't try jumping out the window or something else. He could be such a brat sometimes, she thought irritably. "But... I want to know if they're true. Because, you know, if they are..."
Silence. She bit her lip and opened her mouth but Sasuke's voice came through the other side.
"Then we're being inefficient and wasting time for no reason."
Sakura resisted the urge to laugh. Of course he'd say something like that. Her muscles relaxed. It was comforting that even in this awkward situation, Sasuke continued to act predictable. Sulky and bratty as always.
"Yes, we are. So... if it's true... can we stop wasting time?" She waited for his answer, holding her breath. She jumped back when Sasuke nearly ripped the door open, looking even more like a child throwing a temper tantrum. She sighed, relieved.
"Do you have any idea how annoying you are?" He was glaring but there was something in his voice, some lilt, that made her realize he was just kidding. Sort of, anyway. As much as Sasuke could kid around. Although, he did have a sense of humor. Granted it was strange, she though, recalling an incident with Naruto's apartment and many frogs. Sakura laughed, feeling drained all of a sudden. Sasuke had that effect on her. She rubbed her eyes. Well, this had been quite a day.
"So you do like me, then." She smiled at him and he wrinkled his nose.
"Unfortunately. This would be so much less distracting but if I want to get anything done anymore I may as well just admit it." He stepped outside of his bedroom and back into the living room. Sakura felt butterflies appear in her stomach and wreak havoc, acting much more like bees or something. Whoever had invented that analogy of intestines to butterflies? They must never have been in love. She shyly met Sasuke's eyes and realized he was smiling. Well, more like smirking.
"I like you too." She mumbled, dazedly, unable to look away. How had this happened again? She'd always desperately wished for this day, but she'd become resigned to it. It had felt like Sasuke would never even notice she actually did exist.
Her eyes widened as he stepped forward, the moment drawn out into excruciatingly slow motion. Was he going to kiss her? He looked hesitant and indecisive, and turned around to go back into his room when Sakura caught his arm. He gawked at her, once again looking scandalized, and Sakura narrowed her eyes.
"No way. No sulking. You've done enough of that for one day." She warned. Sasuke pulled his arm away from her impatiently.
"Fine." He scoffed. "You know, I was perfectly fine until you made everything complicated."
"Oh really? And how did I do that?" She was beginning to feel the adrenaline pump through her; the excitement of what was finally happening beginning to get to her.
"Because..." His brows knit together as he searched for how to explain to her how she'd gotten under his skin. She had twisted her way into his life long ago, and the long absence had made him both appreciate her and detest her so much more. The combination was a potent one and all of a sudden he had found himself hating any man that came within ten paces of her. "You..." He halted and she wanted to hit him. JUST SAY IT! Inner Sakura screamed. He usually had no trouble speaking his mind.
He took another hesitant step forward and Sakura gasped when she realized he was kissing her.
"Bastard! Open up!" Naruto's voice and knocking made the entire apartment shake and when Sakura's eyes darted back to Sasuke, his fingers were already brandishing a kunai, an icy glare on his face. If Sasuke looked at hell it would have frozen over, which, Sakura thought giddily, must have happened, if Sasuke actually cared for her and wanted to date her.
"Oh, I'll open the door, Naruto. But you will wish I hadn't." Sasuke murmured.. He unlocked the door and Sakura covered her eyes and ears. She really didn't want to hear Naruto getting beaten into a bloody pulp today.
OH EM GEE IT'S THE END OF THE EPIC QUEST-
okay, well, not quite. I might write an epilogue about the actual first date (which would be as epic as the quest for it... i already have ideas hehe) depending on the response to this chapter. PLEASE REVIEW with constructive criticism and whether i should write an epilogue. I still can't believe I finished a fic. Cheers!