A/N: Epilogue! We're finally here! It's been a great, long, windy road. There have been good times, times I wanted to kill the characters, and times I thought I wouldn't finish (like having to delete this sucker and reload all of it on one site). But I finished, finally, and while I'll miss them, I'm glad to have it done.

I want to apologize to anyone who followed this story, wondering where I went the last, like, year and a half. Graduate school has just about killed me, coupled with trips all over the U.S... both sisters being pregnant and having babies, two jobs, and life's problems in general. It's been one of those years already, where just finding time to sleep was important. And, truthfully, I almost didn't finish. This chapter sat at three pages for months, as I second-guessed and doubted myself. I was torn over what I was writing, where the characters wanted to go, and the unhappiness of some readers. I'm sorry to those who haven't found this to their liking, but it is my story, and ultimately, the characters chose where to go when. This was almost the breaking point, but some great contacts in the Naruto FF world gave me the courage to keep going.

I want to thank all of you who reviewed, who helped me, who ever pushed me to finish or gave me happy butterflies because you actually liked it. I never thought it would go over as well as it did, and I'm thankful for your enjoyment, your patience, and your reading. This story wouldn't have gone anywhere without the encouragement I received.

This chapter is a little different. There is no song, no typical set up following the other. It is a collage of moments leading to a resolution. The songs are gone, as is the shadow that hung over Sakura throughout the story.

By the way: yes, there is an, ahem, adult ending. It's not available on , as the censors there scare me. But it can be found on , for any who are interested.

"Someday You Will Be Loved: Epilogue"

Nothing had ever looked as good to her as the gates of Konoha did right now. It had been years, literally, since she had laid eyes on her village, and she drank it in like fine sake. It was beautiful.

She could see Izumo and Kotetsu, bored at the gate station, staring at her. And on the way to the tower, she passed many people who stopped, stared, blinked to see if the brunette they now saw was really who they thought she was. They could see streaks of fine pink blending in her hair, the green eyes they used to know so well, but it was like the imprint of a memory upon another person, and the people of Konoha weren't sure—perhaps they were just seeing what they wanted to see.

She took in the growth of her home, the recent damage from Danzou's troops, the new children in the academy yard. Everything was old and new at the same time, like two pictures superimposed on each other, blending and mixing into a bright new world. Her cousins laughed and giggled behind her, pointing out shops and restaurants to their mother. Sai was remarking on how they had repaired the hole in the library roof so quickly, while Naruto babbled to her aunt about the neighborhoods and parks they were near.

As they passed some unnamed, at least to her, Hyuuga, she heard the gasping intake of breath and the void of air as ninja poofed out of existence, racing to tell friends what missing nin they had just seen escorted into town.

Missing nin.

She forgot that she still wore that title around her neck. These people didn't know that she wasn't just some common criminal. Just another pain to add to too many.

As they approached the building, ANBU guards came out, swarming around the group and escorting them up the stairs that she could remember so easily, up to an office where she had spent so much of her time. The tower was crawling with ninja, running back and forth in their haste to get things done, but most of them stopped and stared as she was escorted upstairs.

She could hear Tsunade's voice now, booming and loud, down the corridor. She saw flashes of memory of the woman who had meant so much to her, practices and meetings and sparring sessions with her shishou.

Everyone continued to stare, stopping to look, some even following the crazy procession of ANBU that had surrounded the old Team 7. By the time they reached the corridor leading to the Hokage's offices, there was a full-on parade of ninja following her escort team.

Shizune stopped and stared as the group filtered into the large hall by the Hokage office, before quickly coming to her senses and running to the large double doors, flinging them open. She looked around for a moment, the remorse of interrupting a meeting battling with what she thought was more important.


The Godaime looked up at her secretary, about to lash out for the interruption of her meeting with the few remaining council members. But then, she realized who stood behind Shizune, who was right outside the room.

The office was quickly crowded, with the council, the ANBU, and the travelers. Tsunade stepped in front of the brunette, standing between Sasuke and Naruto, and she reached out, forgetting who else was in the room.


In a flash, Sakura found herself being choked and strangled by the hug she was receiving. She tried to push away after a few moments, protesting the lack of air, but she was unable. The fleshy chest and impregnable strength of her mentor made it impossible.

"Baa-chan! You'll kill her!"

Tsunade immediately let go, backing up and settling herself in her regular authoritative stance. And the façade would have worked, except there was a bright smile on the slug princess' face.

"Welcome home, Sakura."

The ninja just half-grinned and nodded, wary of all the people in the room.

The remaining council members looked at the returned missing nin in a sort of daze, wondering why she wasn't restrained, cuffed, something in the presence of the Hokage. But slowly it filtered through. Surely someone had been feeding them information, and with the welcome the former apprentice had received, perhaps it was her?

Or perhaps not.

Four more ANBU appeared in the already crowded office, all behind the puff of smoke that revealed Morino Ibiki. They reacted quickly, acting as if Sakura was a threat to the illustrious persons in the room. They separated Sakura from her team and therefore, her support, forming a box around the young woman to prevent movement in any direction.

Ibiki stepped toward the Hokage.


He looked almost reluctant, and it was obvious Tsunade wanted to argue with what she knew had to be done. It was standard protocol for any returning missing nin, no matter what. The Hokage could argue all day about it being a mission, but either way, an S-Class debriefing was needed, and until Sakura was officially a Konoha nin once more on paper, she was a missing nin. She was Ibiki's.

Sakura put her hands out after seeing the mental argument going on between her mentor and the interrogations specialist, knowing what she would have to do but already dreading the cell she knew would be waiting for her. She, like any high-ranking ninja, knew what awaited her in Ibiki's "lair."

"Baa-chan? C'mon…"

Naruto looked so hopeful, and Sakura just shushed him. She knew it had to be done, even for the small amount of time it would take for Tsunade to sign all the necessary paperwork. It didn't matter, though, because she was back. By the end of the day, she would be free again, free to roam her city, her home. Free to see her friends, be a citizen of Konoha again.

Sasuke and Sai looked like they were about to step forward, about to fight the ANBU that had appeared to take her down to their levels of the building.

It was worth a few more hours of restriction.

"I'll go willingly, Shishou."

Tsunade glanced back at her, thankful that someone had taken the decision from her, for once. Ibiki motioned to one of the nin, who quickly moved forward and cuffed her. Even the famed interrogator looked upset about what he had to do.

"Just…just get it taken care of quickly, hm?" Sakura almost pleaded, her eyes never leaving the scarred face of the man in front of her.

Ibiki nodded, and chakra draining cuffs appeared on Sakura's wrists a second later, no doubt courtesy of one of the many ANBU surrounding her. In a well-practiced maneuver, the ANBU had her restrained, in their hands, and out of the office through a teleportation jutsu in under three seconds.

The remainder of what had once been Team Seven, Team Kakashi, and a motley group under Yamato-taichou just stared on in silence. She was home, but her arrest made the truth finally sink in: it still wasn't like it was, before.

8 Months Later

"Sakura nee-chan! Hey!"

She looked around, her now pink hair flying around her face and into Reno's, searching for her cousin. She could hear him, but the street was so crowded she couldn't pick him out.

"Over here, nee-chan!"

She looked to the right and there they were, her aunt and both of her cousins. They were dressed in pretty, luxurious formal kimono, all ready for the night's festivities. She waved at them, almost jumping up and down with the excitement of seeing them after her long mission.

She felt like the five weeks she'd been gone were really months, and the entire time she had wondered if she would ever be home again. Kakashi had warned her that it would feel that way, like she had never been home, like she was still living life away. He was right, but being home made her feel like she had never left.

She was pulled out of her musings by her cousins literally jumping to her, arms flying around her waist. Her aunt approached much more sedately, smiling and happy.

"How have you been? Are you alright? No injuries?"

"None, Nanao oba-chan. I'm fine."

"When did you get back?"

"Last night, late."

Nanao nodded, smiling at Reno as he bent down to pick up Misaki, who had switched from hugging her cousin to hugging the redhead, and threw her into the air.

"C'mon squirt! I just saw you a few days ago!"

Sakura looked at Akira, who had finally backed away and was standing by his mother.

"You want me to do that to you?"

He scoffed, giving her a look of pure disdain.

"I'm fourteen now. Of course not, nee-chan."

She laughed, ruffling his hair. Of course he was. He had grown so quickly here, becoming just another boy in Konoha, going to school and hanging out with his friends. He had gotten a part-time job with a local merchant, picking up the practice of business with a flare only Kazedama possessed. After his graduation from the Konoha civilian school, she was sure he would have no problem making a life for himself in Konoha. He had been doing so well since they came here.

He had acclimated to Konoha much more quickly than his sister, at any rate. She was still getting used to life here, and her enrollment into the Ninja Academy hadn't made it any easier. Who knew that she, the sweet little girl that abhorred violence of every sort, would ever want to be a ninja?

Well, they all did now. Misaki had made her decision known only a month after their arrival in Konoha, stating that she wanted to be as strong as her nee-san, and be a medical ninja to boot. The girl had excellent chakra control, almost as good as Sakura's, so she was accepted, despite her age. Med-nin were always needed. And with her cousin to train her, she would definitely become important at the hospital.

The small group eventually moved out of the middle of the road, heading on down the street to the meeting place in front of the tower. Sakura was going to be allowed up top today, but she would stay down with them for just a little while. It seemed like it had been too long since she had seen the remnants of her family.

"Oba-chan, how are the repairs coming?"

Nanao smiled, flicking her fan.

"Perfectly. The house is simply gorgeous, Sakura. Your mother…well, she had good taste. If we can get this other bathroom added, we will be content."

Sakura nodded, memories of her childhood home filtering into her mind. It was really the perfect house for them. Plenty of space, but it wasn't so big that they would feel the house was anything like their old one near Niigata. Anyway, this house was full of sunshine and laughter, a home for a loving family. It was nothing like the cold, cruel mansion in Niigata.

"And you guys? School coming along well?"

Akira made a face, as did Misaki.

The adults laughed.

Soon they were standing before the tower, with most of Konoha's residents. Everyone had turned up to see the newest Hokage be introduced, even though everyone was pretty sure who it would be. No one could have missed Naruto's shouting the past few months as he was being prepped for this day. Still, it was always a big celebration in Konoha, sort of like a festival of the highest degree.

The kids soon wandered away from the trio of adults, longing to be carefree on the grassy area in front of the library with the rest of the children, civilian and shinobi alike. They were fitting in so well, already having friends and normal day to day lives in their new city.

"Sakura, are you sure you don't want to go check on your friend before the ceremony?"

Reno nodded, looking at her intently.

"Ya know I can watch the squirts and Nan-chan here. Go 'head. We'll be here when it's done."

She glanced up at the windows to the Hokage's office, wishing to see her friends yet, at the same time, wanting to stay with her family.

"Just go, Sakura," Nanao said, smiling.

"I was planning to go up there later, either way. A few more moments down here won't matter." She smiled, exasperated, as her aunt made shooing motions at her. "Besides, I haven't seen you guys in over a month! Shouldn't you want me to spend time with you?"

"Just go!" Reno and Nanao said at the same time, motioning her yet again toward the tower entrance.

A few more seconds of wavering, and she was nodding at them, saying her goodbyes before heading inside.

The halls were bustling as everyone tried to get ready to make Naruto the official Rokudaime. Ninja smiled at her as she progressed up the tower to the Hokage's offices, some she knew and some she didn't.

Her steps slowed as she neared the rooms, and she could hear the cacophony of chaos coming from inside. She could vaguely hear Tsunade yelling at Naruto over everyone else, but it was Ino's loud shout of "Stay Still, moron!" that made her slow her pace even more, almost stopping in the middle of the crowded hallway.

Yes, she wanted to see her friends. But she wasn't a coward, and she would admit that she was a little nervous about walking into that room.

After everything had been sorted out, and the first month of being back in Konoha had yielded to missions again, she hadn't seen them much. At all, really. The only people she had seen, other than her family, were her old teammates. Sure, there had been nights out where she had run into the old Rookie Nine, but everything was still awkward and, eventually, she had given up ever getting the relationships she once had back.

There still seemed to be some resentment lingering in the air, too, as if she had chosen to leave them and never wanted to come back. Sasuke had confided in her, one night, after quite a bit of sake, that he had felt the same for months—even now, sometimes.

That, Sakura thought, had to be the largest difference in her new life in Konoha. Sasuke. He was still the same little shit he had always been, broody and arrogant to a fault, but he had changed, too, and for the better. He was open with Naruto and herself, to a point that they had never thought possible.

They had developed an interesting friendship, one based on their shared experiences on this plane, outside the relationships of Konoha ninja but still in tied to their lovely city. It was a lonely place, living outside the din, and they both became friends again through their experience of it.

Never mind the fact that they were both the only ones in the Rookie Nine left without spouses, other than Kiba (who had remained single for totally different, and perverted, reasons). Well, and Sai, although he didn't really count. The day Sai got married was the day she would cut off her own hand, and he wasn't an original member of the little group.

Basically, she thought, we're friends because of our pathetic-ness.

Sakura shook her head and steeled her nerves, determined to greet Naruto before the ceremony started and she was unable to really congratulate him.

3 Months Later

There had been a party last night. Right at this moment, hung over and still wrapped up in a knot of blankets, Sakura didn't care to remember who threw it or why they had one, she just wanted something to get the alcohol out of her system.

Oh, god. What did she drink last night?

She rolled out of bed, scrubbing at her face and making her way to bathroom, all the time walking with the unsteady gait of someone who had one too many the night before. Her morning ablutions were quick, just a quick brush of her hair, teeth, and some water splashed on her face to clear the sleep from her eyes and get rid of the small traces of makeup she could feel on her cheeks.

Breakfast was the next duty of the day.

There was a lump on her couch, and all she could see was spiky black hair waving in the artificial breeze of the air conditioner.

If she remembered correctly, he was worse off than she was. She vaguely had an impression of assisting her teammate as he, as Naruto would say, 'prayed to the porcelain god.'

Breakfast would need to be light, then. Coffee was quickly going, as was rice and a bland miso soup. It would be a decent breakfast, but hopefully bland enough to not cause Sasuke even more time in the bathroom. She felt a giggle build in her chest, but held it in, sure the shaking would kill her pounding head.

She padded silently to the sofa taking up much of the adjoining living room of her apartment, standing over him and staring silently down at him. He looked so peaceful, so content when he slept nowadays. She could remember, when they were young, that sleep was something he feared. Night was when the nightmares struck, filled with his dying family and his brother's supposed treachery. Now, though, night was easier on him, and he slept not fitfully but serenely, at least most of the time. No one who lived through what he had as a child escaped the occasional nightmare.

She leaned down slowly, shaking his shoulder, and amazingly got no response. Usually he would have woken up quickly with her moving about and staring at him; it only proved how sick he felt. And how comfortable he felt in her house.

She would admit to herself that she was always happy when he stayed the night here. It was much closer than his own apartment to the Hokage building and the bars, where everyone met to enjoy some relaxing time outside the office, and he frequently ended up crashing on her couch.

"Sasuke?" she whispered, softly, now almost afraid to wake him up. If he was this tired…

There was a small movement, and his arm came up to block the bright light of the mid-morning sun.

"Aa?" was his husky answer, his eyes still closed. He shifted under the blanket she had thrown on him the night before, turning his body more toward her than the back of the couch, which he had been snuggled up to. Heh. Sasuke, and snuggling. Her mind once again shut down her giggles.

"Breakfast is ready. It's sufficiently tasteless, so it shouldn't bother your stomach. There are some pills as well. They'll help with the nausea and headache." His head bounced once, the imitation of a nod.

"I'm going to slip on some shoes and run and get Reno. Otherwise, he'll miss breakfast. I'll be back in a few minutes."

She turned to slip on a pair of sandals to run down the open corridor of her building and grab her redheaded friend, who still refused to feed himself, and missed Sasuke's eyes shooting open.

He winced with pain, but slowly sat up, letting the blanket pool at his waist.

"I wouldn't do that."

She shifted a tiny bit, turning her head toward him as she dug for her sandals in the front closet, making a face that obviously meant 'why?' It also, conveniently, covered up her staring at his pale, muscled, and most importantly bare, chest.

"I believe he had company when he retired last night."

Her eyes widened comically, and she felt her entire body flush. Well, then maybe he wouldn't need her to make him breakfast this morning.

She had been worried about the awkwardness that could develop, having Reno, a civilian, being introduced and included in her shinobi friends' group, but everything had went well. Almost, to be truthful, a little too well. He was quite popular with the chuunin females. He might not wear a shinobi headband, but he was strong, had some killer stories, and as she knew very well, a killer body.

As a matter of fact, the only problem had been Sasuke and Reno. It had taken months to get Sasuke to even talk to her redheaded friend, and even now, he was somewhat cool to him. She didn't understand it, and when she asked Reno what was going on, he just grinned sassily and told her she was clueless.

Maybe. Maybe not.

She stood and shut the door to the closet, listening to water running in the bathroom. Sasuke would be quick, she was sure, and they would sit down to breakfast before getting a late start on the day.

By the time he entered the small kitchen she had everything on the table and was already eating her own soup. The coffee didn't blend well with traditional fare, but she couldn't give it up. After she watched Sasuke prepare a large cup of the dark substance for himself, she realized he couldn't either.

He cleared his throat, sending surreptitious glances her way as he stirred his soup, moved his rice around, barely eating anything at all. He was nervous about something, she knew.

It couldn't be the hang over; it wasn't the first time. She could still see him wincing every once in a while, so he was still feeling pretty bad, but it had never caused him discomfort before. Like it was the first time she saw him in this position! Please!

"I…ahh—I wanted to talk to you anyway. I mean, without Reno here. I suppose this morning is as good a time as any." He set his coffee cup down, his arms folding onto each other and resting on the kitchen table.

She continued eating, nodding at him, only belatedly realizing his silence meant he wanted her full attention.

"Well, what's up, then?" Her green eyes locked onto his black ones, and she swore she saw him fidget in the periphery.

"Do you—do you remember what I asked you last night?"

She finally allowed a small giggle. "Not really. I don't think I remember much of last night at all. Seriously, what were those drinks? I don't think I'll ever allow Kakashi-sensei to pick the rounds ever again!"

A shadow of a grin passed across his face, seen but not seen, there but not. His eyes shifted to something to the left, his gaze unfocused.

She immediately sat up a little straighter, adjusting the collar of the pink robe she wore. Sasuke, staid and calm Sasuke, was fidgeting. Stuttering. He might even be blushing, just a bit.

"Sasuke," she said, pausing as his eyes flickered to meet hers before once again focusing on what she thought was her oven, "what is it?"

She swore she could see as something leave his eyes as he turned back toward her.

"Nothing. It was nothing, Sakura." She opened her mouth to protest—if he had brought it up over breakfast, when they were both feeling this bad, it must have been something—but he cut her off. "Hn. What are we doing today? Training?"

She made to protest again, and he shot her a look. Obviously, she wasn't going to get anything out of him. That was fine.

There were other ways to get the information she wanted.

6 Weeks Later

This mission sucked.

It was the only thought currently running through her brain. She could feel Naruto's breath release in a puff of air as he put her down, on her lovely soft bed, and she just let her mantra continue.

It was supposed to be so simple. Of course, they are the ones that always go wrong, she thought.

There had been a minor merchant in the north of Hi no Kuni that had been selling Konoha's weapons and their secrets to one of the other hidden villages. Selling ninja weapons to two different hidden villages was not, in itself, a crime, but he had been selling weapons that Konoha ninja had developed to complement their abilities, and when one of their own had ended up killed by a weapon that was supposedly only used by Konoha nin, it had become a very large issue.

He was easy to take out, but unfortunately, his bodyguards were not. Why did they always go for missing nin? It was one of life's unanswered questions, really.

She couldn't remember the last time she felt this badly, although she also couldn't remember the last time she was poisoned, so it probably went hand in hand. Did that make sense? She wasn't sure.

Everything was out of her system now, according to Shizune, but she still felt like shit and would for a few days. She could hear Naruto and Sasuke, now in the short hallway of her apartment, but the conversation was hushed. She couldn't understand any of the murmurs.

Her front door opened and closed again, the vibration running through the walls of the apartment, and she saw the shadowy shape in her doorway begin to morph into her teammate. There was little light in the bedroom, with the sun almost set, but just enough for her to see an outline of that crazy spiky hair that had become his trademark.

He stepped over something laying in the middle of the floor—most likely your clothes, her brain told her—and flicked on a small lamp that sat on her dresser. Then, he turned toward her and just stared.

It was starting to make her a bit uncomfortable, to be honest.

His gaze was locked with hers—drawing her in so completely that she couldn't pick up the slight hitch in his breathing every so often. Nor did she see the fine tremors running through his hands. Instead, all she could she was the darkness of his eyes, glittering in the soft light as his emotions were finally unleashed.

"What were you thinking, you foolish girl?" he snapped out harshly, his words quiet, matching the still atmosphere in the apartment.


"I'm fully capable of making my own—"

"Shut up!" he hissed, stalking over to the bed and towering over her. It was unfair, really; movement wasn't something she had mastered yet, with the aftereffects of the poison. She was only able to lie there, following his movement with her head, and this was not how she had envisioned spending her first night back home—

"I'm not a girl," she said, almost petulant.

"You're certainly not acting like an adult." He ran his hand through his black hair, turning away for just a moment. She saw his shoulders jerk, quickly, and when he turned back to her, he was composed.

"Never—do you hear me, Sakura—never, do that again." He eyes were hard, his gaze not leaving her own.

She shifted in the bed, trying to raise herself up. Her arms were shaking with the effort, but it was no use. She collapsed to the bed, weary, and just looked at him.

"Was I supposed to watch as it hit you? Was I supposed to just let him get you, in the back no less?" She was tired, in general and of the situation, and it showed in her voice.

"Yes," he snapped, "you were. I think you forget that Naruto and I can move much faster than you can. He would never have hit me, Sakura. But, no. You had to interfere, and get hurt in the process."

Huh. She had wondered why he hadn't unleashed anything on the way here, and now she knew. He was letting Naruto have his turn, planning to ambush her in the comfort and safety of her home.


"When I can protect my teammates—"

"I don't need your protection!" His near-scream reverberated throughout the still air in her apartment, shocking her. She tried to move backward, but lying down, all she did was end up that much more ensconced in her blankets.

She stared at him, wide-eyed, in disbelief. Rarely did he raise his voice. Even this new Sasuke wasn't that emotional, and he always tried to keep his cool. This, well, this was abnormal. There was tense silence as they stared at each other, his chest almost heaving from his attempts to control his emotions. But it wasn't working, and she could see it in his eyes.

"Are you saying you wouldn't have done the same for me?" she finally asked.

She saw the wariness in his eyes as soon as he comprehended what she had said. She knew he was trapped; if he admitted he thought she needed to be protected, he would get the beating of a lifetime when she was well. If he said he wouldn't have gotten hit again, he would be bragging, and still get a beating. And it was obvious, at least to her, that he wasn't sure what to say.


Tried and true; a Sasuke classic.

"Annoying," he muttered, the fight gone out of him. She watched the muscles in his back shift under his shirt as he left the room.

She laid there, staring at the ceiling, listening as he shifted something around in one of her kitchen cupboards. Finally, she heard water running, and then he appeared in the doorway again. The soft light was casting shadow over the planes of his face, and she could barely see him.


He put a glass of cool water on her nightstand, and then, hovered by the bed.

"Well, let me just grab it and enjoy getting this nasty taste out of my mouth," she said, amusement thick in her voice.

He turned toward her closet, and she could have sworn there was a ghost of a smile on his face. But he turned back toward her, his face once again a mask of calm, and sat down on the edge of the bed. One of his arms went under her shoulders, and she could feel the sinew and tissue move as he lifted her up. He brought the glass to her lips, letting her drink slowly.

When she was done, he put the glass back on the nightstand and rearranged her on the bed, slowly and easily. Blankets were pulled up, her hair was brushed out of her face. He leaned over her—oh, doesn't someone actually smell nice, must have had time to grab a shower while I was unconscious—and grabbed the second pillow. His eyes rested on her face again, before he turned to claim his normal spot, her couch.

"I'll be in the living room, if you need anything." She heard his footfalls continue down the hallway, traces of his muttering trailing behind him.

She grinned, then her eyes widened comically as her face showed the shock she was finally feeling.

What the HELL was that?

2 Weeks Later

Things with Sasuke had been…different…since her almost death a few weeks ago.

He kept shooting her odd looks when he thought she wasn't looking, and sometimes she would notice him in random places, places he would never have gone, as if he was following her. Most of the time, she would open her door at night and he was there, with food or dessert or just sake, as if he was trying to stay in the front of her mind.

It was driving her nuts.

He wasn't talking much, not that he ever did, but he was talking less than he used to. Instead, the nights she found him at her doorstep were filled with awkward silence and the feeling that something was waiting to be said. Quite a few times, she would look at him and see him forming words he never said. He would pretend it never happened later, but there was something hanging over him that he couldn't put out in the open.

They hadn't rehashed the conversation—argument really—they had the night she was injured, and neither had brought up the tense discussion the next morning.

Sasuke had asked her to quit ANBU. As if.

No reason was given, no explanation, just an expectation that she would do as he said. He was proven wrong quickly, though, and she continued to hold her own with the team she couldn't picture deserting again. Seriously, Naruto was already down and out due to Kage duty; did he think she would leave him and Kakashi? That entire day had been tense, with him scowling in her direction all hours and continually telling her how to run her life. She had finally snapped that night; he had helped her to the living room and, after another sly suggestion that the hospital would appreciate having her full time, she told him to butt out. It worked, but only just.

Whatever was bothering him, she knew it involved her. It had to. He was acting too strange. If Naruto had done something stupid, he would have just said so.

She had mentioned it to Reno one day, when Sasuke was busy doing paperwork in the tower and not hovering in her general vicinity like a crazy stalker. The redhead had sighed, patted her on the head, and told her she was a moron. She hadn't seen him since, but she was sure he still had the bump on his head that she had given him. Kakashi had grinned in much the same way, although she couldn't see it because of the mask. He hadn't even said a word, just given her a look and continued on with his reading.

Her aunt's reaction was somewhat similar. When she visited earlier this week, catching up on everything going on with her cousins and checking up on her extended family, the subject had been broached again. Her aunt had just smiled at her, the queer little grin all sly and secretive, and told her to 'talk to the boy.'

Well, that was the plan.

She had worked a small shift today—her chakra was still not back to normal yet—and when she worked he brought dinner over after. He was the best nurse she had ever had, really, even if he was a surly stubborn bastard.

She made sure the apartment was tidy, set out plates and cups and chopsticks, and had everything prepared. She even made a dessert for them to enjoy, hoping that food would mean he stayed put at the table long enough for her to get to the bottom of everything. For some reason, she had even primped. She had changed out of her med-nin outfit, throwing on a comfortable yet stylish pair of black pencil pants and a loose, almost indecent—at least where cleavage was concerned—red top that Misaki had forced her to buy a few weeks before. She hadn't liked it at first, but she was comfortable in it, and going for the "wow" factor tonight.

All to make him talk, of course. At least, that was what she kept telling herself.

She knew there was an attraction—feelings, even—between the two of them, especially on her side. He had been the one boy she could never forget, no matter how hard she tried. And this new Sasuke, well, she was pretty sure she loved him. Not like she would ever tell him that, of course.

Occasionally, she had gotten the impression that this might not be as one-sided as she thought, then the surly man returned to normal and she remembered why she hadn't ever brought it up. Rejection loomed large in the back of her mind, a large ghost in her psyche, and she feared it as much as she had when she was a teen.

Either way, this wasn't a date. He would show up still in his unit issue, and she would not kiss him, or anything silly like that. This was warfare, the strategic use of boobs as weapons for information.

It worked on Naruto.

She puttered about the apartment, keeping her hands busy while she waited for the telltale knock on her door. Some dusting, some laundry, there was always something to do.

She was startled from rearranging a few books that were out of place on her bookshelf when he finally showed up. The first set of knocks on the hard wood startled her, and she stood, startled and still, in her living room. The second set knocked her out of the stupor she was in, chased away her doubts about what she was going to do tonight, and she moved to open the door.

He was still in uniform, although the white vest was missing, and he had two bags of food dangling from his left hand. She moved aside to let him enter, and they made their way silently to the kitchen.

Dinner was laid out amongst chatter—how was your shift? Oh, fine, yours? I'm so tired of paperwork—and they dug into the yakitori, rice, and steamed vegetables in front of them.

Dinner passed quietly, as was usual for them, although she told him about the newest case she had taken on and the little nin from the academy that had somehow managed to spear his own hand with his kunai.

She was getting nervous.

It was one thing to pump herself up and tell herself this was going to happen, that she was finally going to make him give her some answers or he would pay and another to actually do it. By the time she was putting a plate of sticky sweet dessert buns in front of him with a cup of coffee, she had almost stopped talking, which meant they were eating in silence. He rarely made small talk.


He 'hn-ed' without looking up from the sweet bun he was attempting to cut into pieces—couldn't he even eat like a normal person?—and she bit her lip.

"What's going on?"

She saw his eyes shift nervously, even though his hair was still hanging down, hiding his face. "I don't know what you mean, Sakura," he muttered.

She huffed, crossing her arms and staring at him in what Naruto called the 'mom' pose. There was silence for a few very long moments, and finally he sighed wearily, setting his chopsticks down slowly and carefully on the dessert plate. One hand came up and he rubbed his eyes. Finally, he just looked at her, no deep stare or penetrating gaze. He just…looked at her.


"Can we not talk about this right now? It's been a long day—"

Her fist slammed down onto the table, rattling the dishes and causing a small amount of coffee to splash out of her cup. His eyes shot to hers, his disbelief evident. She leaned forward, getting as close to him as she could sitting in her chair, across the table.

"No. I want to talk now."

"You're acting like a child."

"Now, Sasuke."

He sighed again, something she was getting really tired of, and got up from the table. She watched him pick up both of their plates and set them in the sink before he came to a stop right next to her.

She could feel his breath moving her hair.

"Living room, then." She followed him and sat in the corner of the couch, watching as his agitation began to really show. He was pacing in front of the wooden table, a hand grasping at the hair on the side of his head. Finally, he stopped, turned towards her, and his eyes closed.

"I really want you to quit ANBU."

Her jaw dropped. Yet again, back to this? She was so tired of this subject, she thought it was done, but this was the problem?

"Sasuke, I won't quit. I already told you that." He nodded, pacing again. "Why is this such a big deal to you? You've been injured, I've been injured, even Naruto's been injured. It happens. It's never been an issue before—"

"Sakura, I—" he stopped, looking at her, and his eyes almost begged for a pass for this conversation. But she just sat there, staring, waiting. She made sure he knew what she expected; they were going to hash this out now. "—I—of course, you've been injured." He huffed out a breath. "But I had to carry you back as you died, Sakura. You were dying. That is completely different."

"That's what this is about?" she asked, quietly.

"Of course it is!" The agitation she had noticed earlier-god, his emotions are all over the map—finally exploded out of him. "I had to watch you die! I had listen to your heart fail, I was covered in your fucking blood!"

She straightened, startled.

"Do you know how that felt? Do you have any idea?" He stalked around the table and jerked her up off the couch, holding her arms close to her body, not allowing her to move. His face was so close to her she swore she could see the red of the Sharingan lurking behind the onyx. "I came back here, and you weren't here. I find you when I'm sent to kill you, and we finally get you back, and I think things can be how they should be, because you're here, and I'm here, and we're finally getting along and we've both grown up. And then you pull a stupid stunt like trying to protect me when I should be the one protecting you—don't you dare argue with me!"

Her mouth snapped shut.

"I watched the woman I love as she died in my arms, you annoying woman! I won't do it again."

He jerked her to him, and his kiss was bruising. The red eyes in her vision were hidden behind his eyelids, the Sharingan that had surfaced with his anger. Slowly her eyes closed, and she melted against him, her hands coming up to grip his neck as his finally loosened around her arms and moved to caress her back.

She opened her mouth as his tongue prodded her lips, and the kiss deepened. It felt so right, finally.

So much for rejection.

They finally parted, both gasping for breath, and his eyes were still Sharingan red, instead of blistering onyx. She smiled, a tiny grin as she blushed and glanced up at him coyly. He shook his head, once again the ghost a smile crossed his face, and he pulled her to him again.

Everything would be alright, apparently.

Although, Sakura thought, they would still have to settle this ANBU issue. But it could wait.

And that's the end, finally! Thank God I finished. There's more of the chapter on , the mature part, but that's all that's extra.

Once again, thanks to those who read an reviewed! I hope you enjoyed it!