As Awkward As They Come

Originally written for flash-fic challenge...

4 requests: ItaNaru, NaruSasu (platonic or romantic), NejiLee crack, PeinDeidara
Genres: Any, but try to lay off the angst as much as possible. And no character death please!
Max rating: Any
Notes: No girly or super!uke Naruto, please. :)

So, there is some Naru/Sasu. Not a ton of angst, and no character death. No girly Naruto, and I kinda skirted the whole boy on boy explicit thing, so 4/5. Sorry. I don't write slash very well, and even Naru/Sasu platonic doesn't feel right without Sakura. So, I'm sorry for that, but technically… : P I hope you liked it.

A/N: Good humor is harder than angst. Bwa?

Props to those who get the Grey's Anatomy References. : )

Kenji was a fine sporting young man, who was lucky enough to have reserved a date this Friday with a certain cute pink-haired medic. She saved his life twice, and as he gazed up into the boundless green oceans she called eyes, he understood that destiny was afoot. And who was he to stand in her way?

It had taken him two weeks to round up enough courage to shove a bunch of daises – all the florist grudgingly gave – and ask for her hand in marriage. He settled for a date.

All in all, he was pleased. Their future children would be supergorgeous.

So he rang the doorbell, mussing with his hair one last time, before flashing that award-winning grin.

The door opened to an unkempt, quasi-nude, short-haired, blonde man, who stood scratching the spiral on his stomach. In boxers. With a shotgun.

"You're Kenji," he said, squinting a little, before yawning and stretching his rather impressively rock-like physique. The gun waved at Kenji.

"Yes. Are you her… ?" He stopped.


And then.

"Come in."

The house was a pretty shy thing, with matching duvets, and flowers graciously set out on the windowsill along with strawberry-scented potpourri, dressed with lots of sharp and dangerous objects.

"Haruno-san has quite the collection of knives." He said, keeping his knees together, in case of mortal combat. A small puppy in the corner was giving him the evil eye.

"You're not shinobi, are you?" The Blonde said, putting the shotgun on the table, his eyes never leaving Kenji's face.

"Oy, bastard, come on out. Sakura-chan's… date is here." He said the word as though it was poisonous, incredibly offensive and terribly rude.

Kenji stood up and offered his hand, before wilting and withdrawing beneath the glare of hate.

This man had a sword, a large bloody-covered thing, and was sharpening it with precision and glee. He gave Kenji a once-over, before settling down by the blonde.

"Sorry for being rude," he said. "I just came back from a mission."

"Yea, how is ANBU captain working for you?" The Blonde said, tapping the ground with one foot. Kenji nearly choked. ANBU?

The dark haired man – Sasuke was it? – shrugged.

"Not bad. Tsunade-sama is cutting back assassinations. Only four today. One of them ran."

Blondie winced, and then nodded, stroking his chin with one hand, while crackling his knuckles with the other. Kenji was certain he had never heard the sound of bones bragging about years of pummeling ass.

"It just makes it more exciting." Sasuke said, and looked at Kenji, and drew the whetstone down the blade executioner's style so quickly, it made Kenji dizzy.

"So Kenji, what do you do?" Blonde asked.

"I'm an engineer. I work down at-"

"The Argricultural Bureau – you're chief, correct? You went to the local university, and your father was a writer, and your mother is a teacher in district 23." Sasuke said in a smooth sentence, one foot over his knee, now also tapping the floor.

Kenji mumbled something that sounded like oh god, and maybe help me.

"So where are you taking her?" said Blonde. "Fast-food? Burgers?"

"Um… Actually, I made reservations to Le Pomme de Terre." Said Kenji, and smoothed out the wrinkles of his pants.

"French food. Nice. Very nice." Said Blonde. "But, that's too much cheese. Oil. Oh no, maybe something less rich,"

"Too much wine," offered Sasuke, and the dog barked in agreement.

"It's bad for you, you know. How about something like ramen…? And hey, that's where we're going! So you guys could come with us. We wouldn't mind at all…"

But then, there were the sound of steps, and Kenji almost wept at such wonderful timing – which would be an excellent trait to foster in their brood of supergorgeous children.

She waltzed down the stairs, afloat in her silver dress, with a nice slit that showed off her toned, tanned thighs. Class had bowed down and given up its crown, placed it lovingly over her beautiful cerise tresses, curled and defying gravity with a clip who was fortunate enough to have been touched by gilded hands.

"You are a vision," he said, and kissed her hand.

"Lame." He heard Blonde hiss.

"Thank you, Kenji-san," she said, and did a little bow, tucking an errant strand of hair that had dared to tickle the tops of those luscious ears.

"I hope my friends didn't give you too much trouble."

"No. No. Nononononono. Nothing at all. Nope. Nada." He laughed trying to show off his nice, very straight teeth, and helped her into her shoes, trying to keep his backside away from their audience.

Blonde laughed, but held up a small square package, and Kenji nearly dried up and blew away.

"Sakura-chan, we just want you to be safe. And… have fun – but not too much fun, because we don't believe in that sort of-"

"Okay, time to go. Don't wait up. Try not to destroy the house. Don't wake up the puppyhaveagoodnightbye." She said, pushing Kenji out the door. Not that she would ever push, more like nudge, politely maneuver, maybe physically direct towards.

She slammed the door – not slammed per say, shut with force, no no no, closed gently with a splash of finesse– and smiled nervously.

"Sorry. They're… insane."

The reservation was perfect, and the small fountain was lit by candles, and their gold-edged tablecloth had a scattering of cherry blossoms just as he had planned. A fine chardonnay was brought out, and she held her cup daintily with her pinky pointed. Kenji had decided on two children, but a woman who could hold such a glass could certainly handle another two or seven.

"But I think what you're doing with the Bureau is so… helpful to the community, especially if the new harvesting machines can shorten manual labor and provide more food for the needy."

Oh, love, thou art a sweet muse.

And then tragedy - her cell phone rang.

"I thought I left this at - Excuse me, I have to take this." She said, looking so adorably embarrassed, he could have forgiven her for genocide. He smiled, ending his reverie, and she walked towards the ladies room, and he refrained from watching her figure sway in the candlelight.

"So how's it going?"

Kenji leaped to his feet, darted around, looking for the source of the voice.

"Naruto, try not to be so loud." Sasuke?

He looked up, and saw to his dismay, both men were hanging bat-like from the ceiling, looking suave in fitted suits – as though they happened to come to the party fashionably late, and since it was too full down on the ground, why not relocate to the roof?

They dropped down, and landed on both feet, looking benevolent.

"So have you ordered?" asked the blonde.

By the time Sakura came back out, smoldering at Ino for calling about nail polish for God's sake, there was Sasuke and Naruto sitting at their table. Kenji had vanished. The wine was poured, and both aristocrats pulled out a chair for her – though, Sasuke frowned at the slit and the flash of toned taught thigh.

She thought about giving them the 'I work more than eighty hours per week, and some days I don't shower cause I'm about to put together some dude's shattered femur, but here I am in a pretty dress, with my good bra, and darling underwear, and clean', but instead she sighed the sigh of utter obeisance to the force known as Sasuto or Naruke.

"So have you ordered?" she asked.

"Wait, no no no. You didn't." Ino bent over and just about cried.

"I did. I just ordered and ate." Sakura rolled her eyes, before handing her another gardenia.

"Eh, the guy didn't sound too much like a Sakura-type-of-guy. You know masculine, agile, able to withstand first-degree burns…"

"Does it matter? I'm so starved to get out once in a while, you know on real dates, have a some real fun, catch some real action…" She laughed. Ino was silent, obviously still intent on snipping off stray leaves. In the art of Ikebana, Ino was the undefeated champion, churning out outrageously artistic creations in half an hour or less. You would never know the girl could enter minds and was personally trained by Ibiki for the Terror and Interrogation Tactics Squad – or TITS if you preferred.

"You could stay home, hang out with real friends, be that loveable eighty year old neighbor with a goldfish." She said. Sakura wrinkled her nose.

"Sure. Or I could eat lobster and drink until I can blame the consequent actions on being hammered out of my normal mental capacity." She sighed.

"Three cheers for lobster aside - Sakura, you're always working or training, occasionally stopping to train and work. When's the last time you just hung out. You know the people who've been with you through thick and thin? Saved you from certain peril?"

"Ino, my teammates practically live at my house. I see you at least once a day, and any mission time and subsequent after-mission-drinking-time is spent with you guys. And I took a call in the middle of a date to walk you through nail polish colors."

The proof of her love? Freaking everywhere.

Sakura shrugged, obviously just winning the I'm A Better Friend Argument, walking towards the back to get some baskets, because Haruno Sakura was the undefeated champion of basket filling, churning out outrageously edible cornucopias, both aesthetically and digestively pleasing.

"You know the other day, I found my guestroom almost demolished, because Naruto woke up in the middle of the night, and decided to play with little Uo? He's a grown man, and god knows why Sasuke didn't stop him – I'm quite sure he was in on the whole thing, and ohdeargodwhatthehellisthis?"

"Try speaking English." Said Ino, cursing herself. Of course, her dirty dirty secrets would bubble to the surface of the porridge known as life.

"Are these roses?" Sakura said, stampeding into the room like a girl on a mission. "I hope not. Because man, that'd be hilarious. Kenji spent an hour apologizing for why he couldn't get roses. Something to the tune of, the blonde girl from the flower shop – which means… oh no. Not you too…"

Ino could be called the queen of liars, especially because her missions involved a lot of deceiving, you know, of the sexual kind. But there's faking to be a ditz, and lying to your best friend, and maybe Ino's not too good at the latter.

"I can't believe you," Sakura said, massaging her temple, oscillating between beating something senseless and beating Naruto senseless.

Ino scoffed.

"Sakura, it's not a big deal. They pay me a little extra once in a while to keep up with certain flower purchases. Jeez, drama much?" She didn't add to also specifically curtail and/or threaten death.

If Sakura could, she would have had fumes steaming off her face. She knew it was bad. But this bad? No no no. Oh, this was worse. Far worse. This was a fucking conspiracy.

She was a smart girl, in a rough situation.

In the past, she would come home and call a team 7 meeting, calling roll, and "reading minutes" which involved a lot of yelling and Naruto cowering and Sasuke pretending that he wasn't. And then, eventually she'd forgive them, because the Sasuke's pout was pretty ridiculous, and Naruto's extrasuperduper whiny mode was an ulcer-inducing 'too much.'

"There's a word for what you feel toward us," he'd say, after they did the arguing and rented a movie, fulfilling their weekly ritual.

"Stolkholm's Symdrome?"

"No, the other one. Love." Complete with a kissy kissy face. Ugh.

Technically, she could rage and scream and throw things until they promised that they'd never do such a thing again. Or she could get even.

It came to her as she was doing her dishes, and she dropped one of them as it broke upon her like dawn on a windless summer field. Sasuke was at the door in less than five seconds, saying he was just in the neighborhood, which really meant, he was waiting for her to warrant his attention – why oh why couldn't he show his I-like-you-a-lot-as-just-a-really-platonic-friend-but-I-am-rather-stunted-in-the-emotional-area-so-let-me-stalk-you-instead, only with words.

"You have to be careful, Sakura." He said, as he took over drying and washing, since she was obviously inept. But Sakura let it slide, as she worked out the details, the logistics, the scheming beauty of it all.

"Sasuke-kun," she said sweetly. "Let's go get some dinner tomorrow night."

Then she took Uo out for a walk, and left a confused Sasuke to finish the dishes, worrying because nothing good came from that smile.

She walked around the memorial stone, and the old training grounds, even circling back and doubling around his apartment complex. Old ladies with feline issues were rare, so she went to the stores because porn was honey towards the perverted.

And found Kakashi walking out, a bag full of spaghetti and tomato soup, a hand full of Icha.

"Sakura-chan," he said, waving with the book. "What do you want? It couldn't possibly be to visit your ex-sensei…"

"Kakashi-sensei. How surprising it is to see you… cook." She grinned and offered to help with the bag. Kakashi squinted marvelously with only one eye to work with.

"You never help out with groceries." He said.

"I've never seen you eat either."


Walking him home, Sakura chatted about last night's debacle, and Kakashi being Kakashi read his book and didn't answer anything more than 'ah.'

"And I'm just tired of not going on dates. Dates with flowers, and men who offer more. Real dates, and not Ichiraku with you guys." She said. "Not that I don't love ramen. Every. Night."

"Obviously." He said.

"You're the only guy who I can be around and they won't supervise." She said.

"They trust me that much, hmm?" He said.

"They just don't worry about you and me… you know," she blushed. "Anyways, I wanted to ask you a favor…"

"No matter what you say, I will not have sex with you." He said loud enough for all of Konoha to hear. She hissed, and slunk down, trying to hide along the wall. He wiggled an eyebrow suggestively, and she bit her tongue to keep from dying of shame.

"That's not what I had in mind…" She said, wondering how long it would take to scour away the memories and to stop the naughty naughty imagery. "I was wondering if you could take in Uo for a few days."

Being the sweet girl she was, she batted her eyes, and he couldn't help thinking, and now the grasshopper teaches the master. And damn Sai for being away on his honeymoon, leaving me here to deal with this.

Phase 1 started after Sakura made sure that no one was home. She rearranged the pictures, took down the potpourri, and brought out every semi-phallic weapon she had.

She eventually returned to the hospital, where she spent the day waiting for her evil masterpiece.

But it didn't work out quite as she'd planned. Instead, Naruto came in, slumped and collapsed on the couch, crawling until he could cushion his head on her lap. She patted it, and changed the channel.

"She came to the apartment, and threw all my clothes in a garbage bag before setting it on fire and leaving."

She bit her lip, trying hard to be the sympathetic, good, kind, caring friend.

"Yea, it's pretty funny." He said, chuckling a little himself. "Less so though, after I had to go through it all. Who knew orange burned so well?"

"I wouldn't worry too much about it. It just means you'll be old and wrinkly and no one will ever visit you even after you've become the creepy man on the corner trying to peep into the bathhouses. C'est la Vie… anyways, let's have dinner with just the two of us, tomorrow night."

Normally, Uzamaki Naruto would jump at any chance that involving food, but of course today of all days, he choose to be mature and stupid, putting on his sad shit-eating grin and said he had a mission on Saturday, and needed rest because it was far away and a young strapping man like himself needed "rest."

"Oh." Well then. Plan B.

"My treat."

The waiter tapped his pen annoyingly loud.

"Would either of you gentlemen like to try zhe shrimp?"

"No." They both said, and continued to visibly desecrate the other.

"Sakura is supposed to be here." Said Naruto. Sasuke didn't answer.

"I don't want to stare at you all night. When's she coming," he asked.

"Well, la mademoiselle asked on zhe phone for une reservation pour deux gentlemen, who are allowe' to order whatever they like. She even prepaid and gave a lar' sum to cover possible damages." He managed to do all this with a nose upturned.

"Deadlast, she isn't coming."

"What do youmean she isn't coming?! She clearly said-"

"Think about it." He was blushing? Naruto began to be seriously, seriously worried.

"Perhaps you two gentlemen, would like some alone time to… er… get in zhe mood? We have a lovely red zinfandel, which doubles comme un aphrodisiac-"

Then the waiter found himself plastered to the floor, because Naruto's hand was nicknamed 'fist of doom.'

Ding went the light bulb, and now he began to be seriously, seriously pissed.

There was a loud bang, and Sakura's delicious nap about a man and a ring was broken in a snap, especially after a good hard poke/shove.

"Naruto, I've been on call for the last 50-something hours, so unless you're dying, or Konoha is burning..."

She would have buried her head underneath the rock-like hospital pillow, but Naruto was there – right in her face – and damn that boy was noisy.

"Did you forget? Please tell me you forgot. Pleasepleaseplease."

"Forgot about what?" She said, and rubbed her eyes hoping that they would go away and she could lay back down and whimper.

"The date?" said Sasuke.

"Oh dinner." She nodded. "Nope."

"Sakura-chan!? Okay, okay… if you did forget, tell me it wasn't what I thought it was."

"Well, what did you think it was?" She asked, and his eyes were so hopeful.

"That you wanted us to… Which is ridiculous. Because of the whole I really, really like girls thing…" He said. Sasuke nodded, but without equal force, with a face so pink it was enough for her to giggle.

"It's not funny," he snapped.

"Well, think about it…"

"I'd rather not." Said Sasuke.

"Okay, A. You've been friends/enemies/incredibly awkward soul mates for a long time. B. You're always either training, eating ramen, or on a mission… together. And C. Watching you guys bicker is like watching sexual tension ooze. Case-closed." She said. "And also, when Shikamaru was on the rocks with Temari, rumor has it that you were really, really nice to him, and gee golly gosh, I guess it magically danced into my head -"

"I commiserated with him because women are insane." He said. "And did I mention the- I'm not gay." He frowned.

"No, no no. It's not about it. It's about, you know, your favorite word." She blushed.

"Love? You're telling me this is about love?!" His voice was a couple of decibels too much right now, and Sakura shook her head and lied back down, curling up on the granite bed, and relinquished all guilt, banished all thoughts, except the low mumble in the back that told her to shut the fuck up and go to bed already.

She could hear his exasperation as he probably made that stupid face a couple of times, and then Sasuke probably shook his head.

"Okay, because I love you, I'm going to go back to my apartment, where I will shower and go on a mission, and drink away this memory. Into Oblivion. Because. I. Freaking. Love. You."

She gave him the thumbs up.

It took them a week before they would agree to come over and have dinner. Sasuke agreed because she kept making those eyes at him, and guilt tripped under the guilt was completely tripped out. And of course, it took a literal kick to haul Naruto's ass through the door. It was like fishing, and now that the bait was set, she had to reel them in. Calmly but with great violent force, because they were a slow and stupid kind of fish that needed a firm but delicate handling.

So she made her infamous baked rosemary chicken, and this time used whole lemons and baby potatoes, and by the time both of them were firmly strapped into their chairs, the delicious scent of possibly homosexual men realizing their attraction for the non-heterosexual for the first time was positively wafting.

"…So you see, there's nothing wrong with it. In fact, it might even have great benefits, because think of how much you'll save on flowers and that sort. Well for Sasuke at least. Naruto, you'll have to remember that Sasuke is sometimes a little… pmsy."

"I am not." He said.

"Sakura-chan, I just don't think it'll work. I'm not into guys, and he's asexual."

"I am not." He hissed, before Sakura stuck a forkful of chicken into his mouth, and he chewed with the vigor only a polite young man completely surrounded by raving lunatics could.

"But you two haven't been in a serious relationship for years now. You want to know why that is?" She looked at each of them pointedly, and jabbed her fork at them for emphasis.

"You're practically dating already, and no one would be surprised. You've been through a lot- We've all been through a lot…" She said. "So you guys could start off slow, go for a walk. Talk to each other without swearing, although angry sex is a pretty good panacea."

"Sakura-chan…" Naruto clapped both hands to his ears.

"Naruto, just last week didn't you complain about women being – and I quote - insane and impossible?"

"She set my clothes on fire. I'm sorry, were there more appropriate words?"

"And Sasuke- who's definitely not asexual, Naruto - weren't you just complaining that at least in Oto, the girls understood what 'no strings attached' meant?"

"I did not." He said, nearly choking on a carrot.

"So, look, the only solution is that you guys go for a walk or you know, train, if that's what you want to call it. Or get riotously drunk, and see what happens. If it works out, great. If it doesn't, I have a great story to tell at holiday get together. You can't lose."

Naruto looked horrified, and Sasuke looked green. She considered mission accomplished, and ushered each of them out the door, doggy bags in hand, closing the steps with a happy sort of wiggle, and a "have fuuuuun."

On the porch steps, Naruto squinted a little at his friends/enemies/incredibly awkward soul mate, and had to admit, the guy looked pretty good for an emo kid.

It was like wildfire. Ino heard about it and celebrated with a kidnapping and setting Sakura into what Ino preferred to as 'the wild nature of getting some.' And mentioned that her body guards were a little too busy doinking the other to interfere with her potential love life. Sakura left the dance floor with a pocket full of numbers, because there had been a brawl, and the men decided that, come now, they were gentlemen pursuing a similar goal, were they not, and such a goal required sacrifice and the pooling together of resources.

Kakashi returned Uo, and showed very bandaged hands as proof of his undying devotion to his teammates.

Tsunade even congratulated her on getting out of her dating situation, but added extra advice that went something like,

"…And tell them that if they're doing kinky things, or the whip/chain thing, l not heal them, that'll be up to you."

Sakura tried to choke back the vomit.

"But really, tell them I'm glad that they've finally found happiness with each other, rather than destroy Konoha." And as a gift, she let Sakura take the rest of her surgeries for the day. As a gift.

And Sakura being Sakura danced in tune with her silver lining, even said yes to a date from Lee, who after years of hard work, would now perhaps taste the fruits of his youthful toils.

Her house was emptied for the first time in a (really) long while, and Sakura took the chance to clean it from top to bottom, half expecting Naruto to run into the bathroom, with Uo gnawing on his wrist again. But for once, Uo kept to herself, and Sakura was left in her cleaning bandana and yellow rubber gloves, scrubbing in preternatural silence.

This was freedom that she hadn't had since she was twelve, and so she got ice cream – Naruto could never be allowed sugar least everyone around him die, and Sasuke didn't eat sugar since he was a crabby face – and sat on her couch, content to watch commercial filled cheesy movies where the main character always got what he/she wanted if only after a few tribulations.

Uo would look mournfully at the windows where he remembered a blonde haired man who used to parade her around and a dark haired man who left biscuits when no one was watching. She looked back on her owner, her eyes wide and adorable, as if saying, now that you're very, very alone, who will buy me treats and heal too quickly for me to deal life-threatening damage?

"Oh Uo, one day you'll understand. Freedom is a delicious sort of thing, and if you hadn't tasted it since you were twelve, you'll relish it."

Uo sniffed the tub of half-eaten Rocky Road, and shook her head.

Ino disagreed.

"Sakura, now you can finally enjoy the greatest god given gift ever to have been bestowed upon a woman. Multiple orgasms." And there was that waggle of eyebrows, and lick of tongue.

Sakura spluttered and tried to protest that good girls didn't say things like that out loud, but Ino was on her twenty-something bottle of fine ice cold Sapporo, and words? Useless.

"So how have the last three weeks been?" she asked.

"Good." Sakura said, "Pretty uneventful."

"Uneventful? You go out three times a week, possibly to bring other…men" Ino rolled her eyes. "back, to be thoroughly ravished. Or not, because you're making the face."

"The I'm not an open buffet one? The boys are usually off training. Yes training. Which means it isn't quite as much fun to see if I can sneak them in."

"So wait, you're telling me, you haven't been receiving the greatest god given gift ever bestowed upon a woman?"

"No. I've been…" She thought her life recently, and learning how to do the laundry, watch movies, and make dinner for one.

"Busy." She said.

She learned to get ready a little earlier, because the Naruke wasn't there to open the door, and men who were left on the porch for 15 minutes were not too happy to oft for the lobster.

Lee had grown out his hair a bit, but was looking very much like Lee in a green satin suit and teeth so brilliant it hurt.

Clean shirt and skirt aside, she asks for something other than Le Pomme. The mean vicious waiters, who know her by name, were giving her the eye, but she wasn't leaving a tip, so ha.

But she shouldn't have been hasty. She should have thought ahead, or of the consequences of choosing any restaurant that offered ramen.

They're there at the bar, and from the agitated hand gestures, and snarling, they seemed to be sharing a grand old time.

The sautéed pork tasted like sawdust, and she complained more than she should have, but he was too engrossed with the shadows of her collarbone to do anything but say blah blah youth a lot. Then he mentioned Sasuto.

"… It is great that they are making the most of their youth and their glorious time – ohhhh, was that a kiss? – they have so much in common."

True, both men were emotionally stunted from birth, and only recently forgiven of any past offenses mostly because it was better to have them working for you than against.

"Especially since they both share a love for you!" He said, and Sakura looked back at the happy couple, to see that Naruto was pointing at them, and waving ecstatically to show his joy at a vis-à-vis meeting, while Sasuke was hissing and failing at not drawing attention to them.

Maybe protecting her privacy.

Sakura stood up, and told Lee that she was tired, before walking out of the restaurant, and taking the long way home. There, she showered, and indulged in cheesecake with a healthy scoop of wallowing self-pity, and sprawled out on the couch, Uo on her chest, watching cheesy movies where the main protagonists got everything he/she wanted after a few tribulations.

There was a knock on the door, and she woke up to find Uo's desertion. The little bitch. The knocking was incessant, but she stayed on the couch, determined to be channel statue-esque.

"Sakura, we know you're in there. We can hear the TV."

Uo whined and pawed at the door, trying very hard to invite them in because she was a vengeful little dog and couldn't mind her own damn business.

"I'm not dressed." Sakura said.

"Oh come on. Unfair," said Naruto, "now I'll have to destroy the door."

She hurriedly wiped her eyes, before tripping towards the door, opening it just before Naruto released his fists of fury.

"You're dressed," he said, drooping.

"Why are you guys here. Shouldn't you be out training, or something? Destroying things? Being amazing? Macking in public places?"

"We saw you leave the restaurant." Sasuke said, and she shrugged.

"We mean well, but Lee? He's been after you for so long, and I heard a rumor that he broke up Tenten and Neji – not gossip, just news - and I'm sorry but I just don't… You're crying. Why are you crying? Ow Sasuke, fuck that hurt! I didn't mean to make her cry. Girls leak from time to time." But he looked nervous, and ushered her inside, where he sat her down the couch, and told Sasuke to go make tea and stop gawking.

So she found herself sitting in her ducky boxers, and Naruto's old ratty t-shirt, trying very hard not to shudder. Sasuke pressed a warm mug into her hands, before awkwardly patting her on the back, flanking her other side.

Naruto was holding her hand, saying her name over and over, treating it as though it was music.

"I'm sorry. I thought…" She said. "If you can't beat them, join them, and if you can't join them, get your two semi-homoerotic friends to date and make boy love so you can be free, and finally get the couch to yourself to eat lobster and drink yourself to physical love."

And oh god, she was crying in front of the best friends she'd ever had.

"Except, I'm tired of lobster, and-" hiccup – "and now, Sasuke won't take me lingerie shopping, and Naruto won't watch chick flicks pretending to hate them."

Naruto looked at Sasuke, who vehemently but wordlessly returned an I did not.

"And-And, now everything's different. And that wasn't what I wanted." She said. "I feel so… It's like we're 12, and oh god, I'm so used to you guys and your creepy anti-fiancé tactics – Seriously! Is it too much to ask for the greatest god given gift ever to have been bestowed upon women, and also watch classics, and not live under your shadows and maybe… have this?"

She sipped her tea.

"Sakura-chan, we just want you to be happy. Safe. With God's great gift- whatever. Just with someone good for you. Preferably with money."

"From a good family," said Sasuke.

"Nice teeth. Good grooming. No past history of stalking."

"At least a jounin."

"Yea, so you know, date Ino or something." He said, and the dreamy look on his face told her explicitly of that particular fantasy.

"She does look good in a skirt," she said, and Naruto gawped, fluctuating between being turned on and having his world rocked to the Kyuubi core.

"God. We're about as socially awkward as they come," she says. "Between my medical training and your stomach, and his avenger's mission of death…"

"True. I am awesome." He said, and she adds maladjusted and ego-inflated to the list.

"But I wouldn't be too worried."

And Sasuke's warm firm hold said everything he couldn't.

"We're gonna grow old together. Whether you like it or not. That way, I can laugh when you have wrinkles and I don't'."

She was not cooing, or smiling. And definitely not touched by the hallmark lines. Because she is a woman, damnnit. And that was not how real women did things.

Sasuke laughed, and she bites her lip, because maybe she's missed this, and them, and whatever configuration they've managed to tangle themselves up into. She blamed it all on Stockholm's Syndrome, but tonight, she could have meant the other word.

I took a book and went into the forest.
I climbed the hill, I wanted to look down on you.
But all I saw was twenty miles of wilderness so I went home.

- Belle & Sebastian