Window-shopping

I'd like to thank i.dance.in.the.rain (Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. By the way, checked out your fic and loved it . I hope you update soon.), musagirl15, hellopanda23 (No, their love isn't forbidden. It's just not looked well upon.), Emo Vampire Princess Bella, KonohaKunoichi93, Mittelan (Haha, yeah it was kinda corny. Oops! xD) , LifesABitchToMe, TennantFangirl, freak a geek, sandwich-chan, bo0bahh, AngelFire Rei, Tenshi no Hana-chan, cutebutwierdlucy18, Me want mochi, Laura-chan (They got back from the meadow because Sasuke carried her. I met to mention that somewhere, but I kinda forgot. Whoops. ;) , JunJun1990, Poison's Ivy, FakeCompassion, sakurasaskeromancelover, nekokigin, and Moongoddess97 for the reviews! Your reviews are what keep me motivated, and I appreciate them so much!

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of the characters.

Window-shopping.

"I like the one in the middle. She definitely looks like a good fuck."

Conspiring.

"Why don't you just go up and ask her and her friends to come and…entertain us? We could do with some fun, couldn't we boys?"

Assuming.

"I bet they've slept with half the men in Heian by now."

Insulting.

"What whores! They are such a disgrace. I would never do something like that."

Scrutinizing.

"What has the world come to? Young ladies running around in men's clothing? It just isn't decent."

Gawking.

"Did you see that? I've never seen one before. They are so eccentric. Look at those clothes! And that hair!"

Praising.

"Did you see that performance last night? Spectacular."

Just your typical, everyday buzz in the streets of Heian.

I roll my eyes and sigh tiredly as I walk down the street with Tenten and Ino on either side of me in full shirabyoshi garb. Great Buddha, this is so old. I should be used to it by now, but it is still so damn annoying. I notice everyone's eyes practically glued to us as we pass by, examining our every action. I ignore the constant scrutiny and look up to the clear, blue sky to keep myself from screaming. The whispers get harder to ignore as time goes on, and the urge to scream never dissipates.

"Why can't they talk about something actually worth listening to?" Ino drawls in a bored voice. "I'm tired of just listening to all the stuff they make up about us."

"I know what you mean," Tenten agrees. "They are sorely lacking in originality these days."

I nod in agreement. "I really just want to tell them all to shut up."

Ino shrugs and lightly brushes away a strand of hair away from her face. "Don't we all?"

We continue meandering lazily down the street in silence after we had accepted for probably the millionth time that this was the way things were going to be. I decide to just put thoughts like that aside and relax; this is the first time we've had any spare time in a long time. Nobody has requested a performance from us in ages, so we've been free to do as we like for the past couple of days. I've spent the past days as I am right now; I've been hanging around with Ino and Tenten, doing nothing productive at all.

"So did you hear about Nara-sama?"

Surprised, I turn my head slightly to find the source of the voice. I see a middle-aged woman leaning over conspiratorially to the ear of the woman selling flowers at the street corner. A small smile forms on my lips as I quicken my pace at the prospect of new information, and no doubt leaving a confused Ino and Tenten lagging behind. As subtly as possible, I walk up to a nearby bunch of flowers on display while keeping a fairly good distance. I lean over and take a deep breath of the flower's light fragrance.

"Of course!" The flower woman exclaims, seemingly offended that someone would think she didn't know. "Who hasn't? The fact that he and that noblewoman from Shiga are engaged."

Nara Shikamaru is engaged to someone from Shiga?! Great Buddha, who the hell is it?!

"Did you know that the parents arranged it?" The other woman inquires.

"No, but I'm not surprised. What any woman in her right mind would willingly marry a lazy man like him? Even Sabaku Temari, who is more eccentric than most, has more sense than that." The flower woman nods knowingly, crossing her arms stoutly as if daring the other woman to contradict her.

He's marrying Sabaku Temari? Who would have thought? I didn't think Nara Shikamaru would marry anyone because of how "troublesome" it is to have a wife. And Temari seems like she would be the most "troublesome" to him. She is so independent and headstrong; I don't know how he is going to handle it.

I lift my head up to see the two women eyeing me curiously, probably wondering why I am lingering there. I smile at them winningly and grab a small handful of flowers I had been pretending to examine. Reaching into my purse, I pull out a few coins and hand them to the suspicious, old flower woman, who eyes the money with careful consideration before pocketing it. I hurriedly walk away from the pair, back to Ino and Tenten who had taken residence under a nearby tree to shelter them from the sun. Ino raises her eyebrows expectantly, waiting for me to report on my findings. I wince slightly, knowing that the news will hurt her. Ino is definitely not going to like this. I sit down beside them tentatively, and I delay informing them by staring at the flower I had purchased.

"So what did you manage to hear, forehead?" Ino nags impatiently.

"I was getting to that, pig, before you interrupted me," I snap, twiddling the stems in my fingers nervously. Well, here goes. "Apparently…" I pause for a brief moment, losing what little nerve I had gathered.

"Apparently what?" Ino presses.

I take a deep breath before continuing, lifting my gaze to meet her eager one. "Apparently, Nara Shikamaru is…" I see Ino lean forward excitedly at the sound of his name, and I grimace as I look at the silly smile she has on her face. That definitely won't last long. That's for sure. "Well…" Great Buddha, just spit it out! "He's engaged," I manage to blurt out quickly.

Ino's glowing expression instantly transforms as it becomes apparent at how crestfallen she feels. "Engaged?" She whispers. "To who?"

"Sabaku Temari," I reply quietly as I avert my eyes to the flowers in my hand.

It is silent, and I look up to examine Ino's face. It's hard to tell exactly what she is feeling now; there are so many emotions on her face that it is hard to interpret them exactly. I glance over at Tenten, who shoots me a worried look before turning her attention back to Ino. Tenten places a reassuring hand on Ino's shoulder, but Ino instantly brushes it away. Ino brings her eyes up to look at mine and then at Tenten's, and a weak smile replaces the frown she had previously been wearing.

"I'm fine, guys," Ino insists, not really convincing either of us.

"Ino…" I say warily, but she cuts me off.

"No, seriously. It's just one man. There are plenty of other sexy nobles out there." Ino grins slyly, earning a groan from Tenten and me.

Typical Ino.

"You certainly got over that fast," Tenten remarks.

"What are we going to do with you, Ino?" I groan.

Ino doesn't respond but simply grins at us happily, clearly now over the news of Shikamaru's engagement. Her happiness is contagious, and I can't help but smile back at her despite my doubts. I had thought she was really serious about this one. I guess not. Ino will be Ino after all. Apparently, Ino's mood had an effect on Tenten too because she lets out a tiny giggle. Pretty soon, we are all on the ground, laughing our heads off and clutching our stomachs. I barely notice through the tears all the people that are watching us disgrace ourselves, but I really could care less.

After a few minutes, I finally manage to suppress my laughing fit and breathe properly. However, a ridiculous grin is still plastered on my face even though my laughter has stopped. I sit up to look at Ino and Tenten to find them already sitting up with similar expressions on their faces. I let a content sigh escape my lips as I lift my eyes up to the sky again. Life is good. It all seems too perfect, almost dreamlike. It'll all probably come to end soon enough. Might as well enjoy this while it lasts.

My pensive state is ruined by a gentle thud beside me, surprising all three of us. I glance over to find familiar, muscular figure sitting there, and I smile widely. Sasuke! I resist the urge to pull him into a hug and settle for placing my hand on his. He simply directs his eyes over towards me briefly without saying a word; I've gotten used to this type of behavior over the past couple of days and don't call him out on it as much. After a brief moment, I pull my hand away, knowing that any longer would create some new stories to be circulated in Heian.

"Yoshitsune-sama, what are you doing here?" Ino asks for all of us politely, her tone still bubbly and bright even as she puts on her shirabyoshi façade.

"It's not your business," Sasuke states curtly, not even gracing her with eye contact.

"Of course not, Yoshitsune-sama," Tenten drawls slightly, even though I'm sure she meant to hide it. Tenten has always been the least accepting of Sasuke; she still thinks that he is going to cause me more pain than happiness.

"Come now, Yoshitsune-sama," I plead with undertones of mocking. "It's such a lovely day. It would be a shame to ruin it with your foul mood."

Sasuke turns his head towards me to glare at me in annoyance, and I grin in response. "I hate that," he states coolly. "You know that."

"Hate what, Yoshitsune-sama? Formalities? They may be tedious, but we should not ignore them simply because they require a little more effort."

"Sakura." Ok, I will admit his voice was really scary just then. But sexy.

"Fine, fine. I won't call you Yoshitsune-sama. Then what shall I call you instead?" I ask.

"Hn," he grunts as all evidence of his previous intensity vanishes.

"What do you think about me calling you Sasu-chan?" I inquire brightly, trying to look completely serious.

Sasuke barely winces at the name but doesn't say anything, and I smirk. "No? What about Sasu-hime?"

Sasuke's fists tighten, and I bite my lip to fight back a laugh. He defiantly didn't like that one. I lean over and bring my lips to his ear as I whisper huskily, "What about Sasuke-kun?"

If I didn't know any better, I would say that I heard Sasuke mutter something under his breath, but I know better. It was just my imagination. Sasuke turns his head to face me, and my eyes meet his smoldering, dark ones, making my breath hitch. Without even thinking, I lean closer to him, hoping to touch my lips to his. A cough makes me jerk back and realize that we are not alone. Damn it! Had I proceeded, I would have given not just Ino and Tenten, but all of Heian a free show. Although grateful, I am still perturbed, and I turn to give an amused Ino and Tenten a glare. As much as I am opposed to having a crowd watching me, I really wish they hadn't interrupted. I haven't kissed Sasuke since that time outside the theater. Actually, we've barely even held hands since then.

"I think someone is mad that we interrupted," Tenten whispers to Ino with a mocking smile.

"Oh, shut up," I snap surlily, causing Ino and Tenten to giggle.

"Aw, come on. Don't be like that, forehead," Ino implores me. "You didn't really expect us to just sit here while you both eat each other's faces off, did you?"

"Pig!" I warn with my voice dangerously low.

"But hey, it would have been a pretty good show. Probably would have brought a good sum with all these people around."

Tenten lets out a strange grunt as she tries to stifle a laugh. She brings up her hand to her mouth and pretends to clear her throat, but I see past her act. Ino's taunting smirk goads me to react, but I bite my lips to keep myself from saying anything. I will NOT let Ino pull me into her childishness. Tenten is now shaking in silent laughter; her shoulder moving violently as she tries to hold in the sound of her obvious mirth. I scowl at her briefly before turning my attention back to Ino to stare back at her defiantly. She matches my intense gaze with a victorious smile on her face. She knows me well enough to know that a come back is on the tip of my tongue.

Great Buddha, I can't take this any more. I am so going to get back at Ino. I open my mouth to retaliate, but Sasuke's impassive voice stops me. "Leave," he commands.

Ino drops her mouth open in disbelief that he would just blatantly boss her around. "Who the hell do you think you are?"

Sasuke turns his head to face her and gives her an unnerving stare that makes Ino drop her gaze timidly. Yeah, Ino is right. Who the hell do you think you are? You have no right to be a total ass to my friends. Sure, Ino was being annoying, but she was just being Ino. I reach over and smack Sasuke hard in the arm, earning me the privilege of his scary gaze. Not wanting to admit how much it is making me uncomfortable, I simply roll my eyes at him, pretending to simply be annoyed.

"Sasuke, be nice to her," I order, ignoring the perturbed expression on Sasuke's face that he gets when I try to tell him what to do. "She was just teasing."

"You're telling me what to do?" He asks in scornful disbelief.

"Yes, I am," I confirm, nodding my head.

Sasuke raises his eyebrows as he processes my answer. "Nobody tells an Uchiha what to do."

"Well, I just did. What now, bitch?" I challenge.

"Annoying," he states aloofly, not allowing his noble self to be provoked by me.

Great Buddha, I wish he would stop saying that. I am not annoying!

"You're the annoying one," I retort pathetically, crossing my arms indignantly.

"You guys bicker like an old married couple," Ino comments, gaining back her courage that she had previously lost under Sasuke's intense glare.

This earns her another sharp look from Sasuke, and she shudders slightly while averting her eyes somewhere else. I sigh and pinch the bridge of my nose tiredly, getting quite frustrated with Sasuke's whole frigid bastard act. Seriously, would it kill him to be nice? I look over at him to see the vexed scowl on his face and roll me eyes. I guess it would. Ino gathers up her courage again and sticks her tongue out at him immaturely. I chuckle at her antics, and Tenten lets a small smile escape her, despite the fact that Sasuke's presence makes her anxious.

Abruptly, Sasuke gets to his feet, surprising the three of us. I don't have much time to be confused because Sasuke snatches my hand and yanks me to my feet. Before I know it, he is dragging me down the street away from Ino and Tenten. What the hell is this boy doing? I look over my shoulder to see them still sitting there and staring with bewildered expressions. I shrug, indicating I don't know anymore than they do; Tenten responds to that with a disapproving glance towards Sasuke, showing her apparent distrust. Sorry, guys. I'll explain later when I figure out what the hell is going on. I send them an apologetic glance before turning my head to look at the back of Sasuke's head. I know he hates it when I mention it, but his hair REALLY looks like a bird's ass from here.

"Sasuke, what the hell is up with you?" I interrogate, noticing all the confused stares that we are receiving has he pulls me down the street.

"Hn," he replies aloofly.

"Oh, no. Your one-answer-fits-all is not going to work this time. Explain. Now."

"An Uchiha doesn't take orders," he informs me. "He gives them."

"Well, there's a first time for everything," I quip.

"Well, why would I take orders from a weak woman like you?" He wonders without a single trace of emotion in his voice.

I cease moving my feet, causing Sasuke to stop as well and turn around to look at me. He did NOT just say that to me. What the hell is his problem? I thought we had gotten past the whole "I-am-superior-to-you-because-I-am-male-and-a-strong-noble-that-you-will-never-beat" complex. I jerk my hand away from him and glower at him heatedly, irate that he still thinks I am something he can just order around and lord over. He'll never change. I was stupid to think that he did. I quickly turn on my heel and start to stride away from him, not even bothering to explain.

I feel a hand on my shoulder trying to stop me, but I push it away roughly. "Don't touch me," I growl, not even turning to look at him.

I continue walking again, but his voice stops me this time. "Sakura."

"Don't talk to me," I dictate fiercely as I begin stomping away from him for the third time.

I feel a hand seize my wrist, and I twist my arm to release it from his grip. However, his grip is viselike, and so I pull wildly in desperation, hoping that my frantic movements will free me. My flailing seems to be more of an annoyance than anything, and Sasuke merely tightens his grip on me slightly to get me to stop. When I stop, he tugs on my arm forcibly and brings me close to him so that our faces are just inches apart. He doesn't say anything for a while and simply stares down at me. His warm breath is on my face, and I feel my knees wanting to give out; however, I manage to keep myself steady. I try to pull away, but his hold on me won't let me.

"I've never listened to you before, Sakura," he reminds me with that damn smirk on his face. "I'm not about to start now."

A strange feeling overwhelms me, and my mind stops functioning properly. What was I mad about again? I feel my breath quicken to a ragged pace, and my heart is beating erratically in my chest. Whatever it is that is in his eyes seems to intensify until they are smoldering. What is wrong with me? Why is it when he says stuff like this that I get all flustered? I'm supposed to me mad, right? I can't remember what I was mad about though. This is so not fair. He is trying to mesmerize me. He has the sexiest eyes ever, and he damn well knows it.

"You're cheating," I inform him breathily, amazingly forming a coherent, complete sentence.

"Aa," he says in response with his smirk getting wider, obviously aware of his effect on me.

This isn't fair at all. How come he has so much effect on me, but I do nothing to him at all?

Slightly frustrated by this realization, I lean forward to capture his lips, praying for some sort of reaction from him. Sasuke doesn't grace me with any expression or reaction; he simply sits there and doesn't try to stop me. My lips almost touch his, but I stop as I notice a dark shadow looming above us. I pull back away from Sasuke's face and turn to see the figure beside us. Great Buddha! Two Sasukes? I dismiss that idea almost instantly; upon closer inspection, it is pretty obvious that the figure standing before us isn't another Sasuke. They DO look a lot alike though. They are obviously related. He is taller than Sasuke to start and has longer hair that is pulled back. The way they carry themselves is different as well; they both have grace, but this man's is a quiet, but almost menacing type of grace.

"Why hello, little brother," the Sasuke look-a-like (sort of) greets genially. "Are you going to introduce me to the beautiful lady who is gracing your company?"

Duh, I should have realized it was Sasuke's brother. What was his name again? Oh, right, Yoritomo. What was it that Sasuke called him that one time…? Itachi. That's it.

I feel a blush rise to my cheeks unexpectedly at the compliment, and I drop my gaze down to my feet abashedly. Noticing this, Sasuke takes a small step forward, putting himself between Itachi and me. I raise my eyes back up to look at Sasuke to find his stance protective and all the muscles in his body tense. What is it about Itachi that is making Sasuke so nervous? I've never seen him like this before. I crane my neck around Sasuke's tall figure to get a better look at Itachi's reaction to his brother's hostility and see that Itachi is merely amused by his brother's reaction. I wonder what the deal is between these two.

"You're being quite rude, little brother," Itachi reprimands coolly. "You should have more respect for your older brother."

Sasuke glares at Itachi furiously and remains silent for a moment before replying. "Shizuka."

"Was that so hard?" Itachi asks lightly, completely ignoring his ill-tempered brother.

"Just get away from me, you bastard," Sasuke growls, shifting his weight into a stance indicating his intentions to attack.

I place a gentle hand on his shoulder, and I feel the muscles almost instantly tighten at my touch. For minute, I think he is going to hit me, but his body relaxes after he establishes that it is me touching him. Calm down, Sasuke. I turn my attention to Itachi, who is looking at the two of us with great interest as well as bemusement. I ignore his blatant examination of us and reassuringly give Sasuke's shoulder a squeeze. He lets my hand sit there for a second before shaking it off as Sasuke typically would.

"Interesting," Itachi observes.

"What is?" I ask curiously, earning me a dirty look from Sasuke that said "don't encourage him".

"Sasuke allowing displays of affection. It's so unlike him. Not to mention this is the first time I've ever seen him show an interest in women. For the longest time, I thought him to be asexual. Or gay."

A giggle escapes me when I hear this. I remember not too long ago I had also theorized the possibility of Sasuke being gay and having a male concubine. Sasuke isn't exactly happy at my reaction, and I grimace apologetically at him, shrugging. I really don't get why Sasuke is being like this. Itachi doesn't seem all that bad. He is a little intimidating, but he is quite polite and not a total ice cube like his brother. Also, he is quite handsome. Not anything like Sasuke, of course, but still.

"What are you doing here?" Sasuke interrogates abruptly in a dangerously calm voice. He is definitely forcing that. "Are you just here to patronize me?"

"I simply thought it was such a nice day that I should take a stroll," Itachi supplies casually.

"Liar," Sasuke hisses bitterly.

Itachi brings a hand to his heart dramatically, pretending to be hurt by this accusation. "You hurt me, little brother. Why would I ever lie?"

Sasuke's eyes narrow accusingly at this question. "You are looking for a whore to fuck because you're a horny bastard that can't wait until the wedding night." Why would Yoritomo do something like that? I thought he was quite fond of his fiancée…No, wait.

"I never knew you had such a poor opinion of me, little brother," Yoritomo

"Well, now you do."

Itachi glances over Sasuke to direct his gaze at me. "I'm sorry that you have to witness our bickering, Lady Shizuka. If it weren't for my foolish little brother, I would have gladly offered you more suitable conversation."

"Don't talk to her, Itachi," Sasuke warns.

"Well, well, it looks like my little brother is serious about this one," Itachi muses. "Such a shame. You're a pretty little thing. I might just have to steal you for myself."

"Fuck off, bastard."

Itachi gave a small sigh as he shook his head at Sasuke. "Well, it is quite obvious that it is impossible to have a civilized discussion with you right now. You really need to learn to control that temper, Sasuke."

Sasuke clenches his hands into tight fists, and it looks like the circulation is being cut off. Itachi's face remains calm as he watches his brother's blood boil, apparently used to his brother's complete disdain for him. Itachi simply nods to his brother in farewell and brushes past him towards me, unexpectedly making me nervous. Instinctively, I take a step back away from him, dismissing the amiable thoughts I previously had of him. Before I can object, he picks up my hand and lifts my hands to his mouth, briefly brushing his lips on my knuckles. I feel a shiver run down my spine, but it's definitely not the good kind like I feel around Sasuke. Fear and anxiety seize my entire body, and I simply stare at Itachi with wide eyes. I feel so frightened, but I don't know why.

Before Sasuke can respond, Itachi drops my hand and saunters down the street into the crowd of bustling people. I watch him until he disappears completely, and I then turn my eyes back to Sasuke, who is not even bothering to hide the fact that he is seething. I reach out unsurely, offering him my hand, and much to my surprise, he hurriedly takes mine in his own. He doesn't look at me or our intertwined hands, but he simply keeps his eyes glued on where Itachi had disappeared from view. I worriedly give Sasuke's hand a small squeeze, unsure of what to say or do to help him.

"Are you okay?" I whisper unsurely.

Sasuke looks at me, his eyes totally unreadable, and releases his hold on my hand. "Hn."

I look at him unsurely, unable to translate his grunt into a yes or a no. He finally brings his obsidian eyes to meet mine, and I notice a sort of pain in his eyes. No, he isn't okay. The emotion vanishes as quickly as it came, trying to hide his feelings from me. Had I not been watching him so closely, I would have missed it like he had intended. A wave of sympathy washes over me as well as a feeling of helplessness; I have no idea how to save him from his inner demon. What can I do, Sasuke? I want to help you so badly; I want to help you get through this. Whatever this is.

I do the only thing I can think of; I tug on Sasuke's arm, pulling him into me. I slowly wrap my arms around him, and I feel him stiffen in my embrace. He doesn't hug me back, but he simply rests his head on my shoulder, practically sagging in my arms. We stand there for a little while, not even caring about the curious eyes staring at us. I rub small circles around his back, hoping to comfort him in some way.

"Sasuke," I say gently, "please tell me what's wrong. I want to help."

My voice seems to wake him up, and he pushes me roughly away so that we are a good distance apart. Everything about him is guarded, clearly sending the message to keep away. I take a step forward, reaching out for him, but he evades me and takes a step back. I feel hurt by this, but I don't show it, doing my best to keep a stoic expression on my face. Giving me one last look, Sasuke turns his back to me and makes his way down the street. Why won't you let me help you? Why are you just walking away from me?

Sasuke turns his head to look over his shoulder as he walks and says, "You can't help, Sakura. No one can."

A/N: Well, hello again! So, this chapter is different than the other ones, but I actually like how it turned out. It is kind of random, and Sasuke isn't really in character. Don't worry, though. Sasuke will be more in character in the next chapter. Scout's honor! XD So anyways, please review and tell me what you think!