Title: Breaking Up Isn't As Hard to Do as May Have Been Previously Suggested
By: Dr. Destructo
Disclaimer: No manga-ka were injured or lost any money or commercial rights during the creation of this work. All rights remain the property of Masashi Kishimoto and Shonen Jump.
Summary: This is not an epic tale of action, suspense and true love. Yeah, I'm disappointed, too. NaruSaku
Haruno Sakura craned her head to stare up at the young man addressing her. Eyes a little wide and long strands of soba noodles hanging from her mouth, Sakura took in the slouched, pensive stance of her blonde teammate.
"Mrph?" she asked. Would have asked were it not for the curtain of noodles. Ino choked and snickered around her own mouthful of soba, amused at the scene before her.
"Listen, Sakura-chan," Naruto said, his voice and face solemn. "I know we've been together for a while and things've gotten pretty, well, tense. I... I don't think it's working out between us. It's not you or anything you've done, Sakura-chan. I just need to work on being happy with me before I can be happy with someone else. I'm sorry and I hope we can still be friends."
With a quickly executed bow, Naruto turned and left the now awkwardly silent eatery. Clothes rustled as necks turned to focus on a stunned Sakura, mouth slack and soba noodles slowly falling back onto her plate. Glaring at all the attention directed at her roseate friend, Ino tentatively placed a hand on Sakura's shoulder. Digging through a dusty library of soap operas and tawdry romance novels, Ino sought out the words that would help ease a broken heart.
Instead, what came out was more like, "Wow, you didn't tell me you and Naruto were dating."
After the words were voiced, Ino determined that they were probably not of the helpful variety. Sakura just slowly shook her head, her mouth working to find volume. Finally, it seemed like the young kunoichi with pink hair would speak.
"But... we're not dating!"
"Well, no," Ino said while patting Sakura's shoulder. "You two most definitely aren't dating now."
"No!" Sakura shouted, rounding on her friend. "I mean we weren't dating to begin with! Like, at all!"
"It's okay to be upset, Sakura," Ino said with a frown. "But lying to yourself is no way to deal with a break-up. Well, not that I'd know, since no one's broken up with me, but I've read that somewhere, I'm sure."
"Condescend to me again, piglet," Sakura said through clenched teeth, "and I will break your face. Listen to me. Naruto and I have never dated. EVER."
"Then," Ino asked, scrunching her face up in confusion, "Why did he just do that?"
"I don't know!"
On the good days, Sakura liked to think of Konohagakure's hospital as her domain and she the beautiful, feared warlord taming its wild, daunting fierceness. On the bad days, she thought of it only as a pit designed to churn and excrete despair and misery. And despite her confusing lunch at the Utatane Soba place, Sakura had declared today a good day.
She was joking with the head nurse and Shizune at the main desk when a familiar throat cleared itself and captured the attention of all the medic personnel as well as the few people in the waiting area. Uzumaki Naruto stood a couple steps away from the small gathering in a white, collared shirt half unbuttoned to expose the midnight blue undershirt. The line of his mouth and the troubled look in his eyes told everyone that he had no good news to impart.
"Sakura-chan," he said, taking a stride forward and pressing a small package into her hand. "You don't smile enough. You haven't really for a while, and saying you're happy and looking like it are completely different things. I know I can't ask you to trust me again after... after what happened. It's not fair and I'm sorry."
Leaving the small box in Sakura's hand the blonde shinobi went to open his mouth again before closing it and shaking his head. Shoulders sagging with remorse, Naruto shuffled out of the hospital as his feet scuffed the floor.
A sense of deja vu settled over Sakura as once more she felt the silent stares of friends and strangers linger on her. Choosing to ignore everyone, she examined the parcel in her hand and prayed everyone found something more interesting than her complete and utter bafflement. The lid gave easily under her ministrations and within Sakura discovered a few technique scrolls on genjutsu she'd let Naruto "permanently borrow."
"What the hell?" Sakura muttered, studying the care-worn scrolls.
"Sakura-san," Kaori said, causing the young medic-ninja to turn. The older nurse stood with tears in her eyes and sorrow etched onto her normally pretty features. "I'm not one who normally interferes in other people's lives, but... won't you please give him another chance? He just- Naruto's so- Look, even I can see how broken up he is about whatever's come between you two.
"Please give him a chance, Sakura-san!" Kaori cried, tears sliding down her face as she bowed low at the waist.
Flummoxed, Sakura started to explain that she had no idea what Naruto was talking about, when a small chorus of pleas sounded from behind her. Whirling, Sakura took in the sight of the few waiting room occupants also bowing and agreeing with Kaori's emphatic request.
"Sakura," Shizune said in a gentle voice, "I know how Naruto can be, too. I'm sure whatever he did isn't that bad. Maybe we can talk about it?"
"But!" Sakura exclaimed, trying to sort out what had just happened. "But there's nothing to talk about!"
"I had hoped that you wouldn't have acquired quite so much of Tsunade-shishou's stubbornness, Sakura," Shizune chided with a small frown.
"No, really! We've never even dated!"
"You're so cruel, Sakura-san!" Kaori blurted before darting towards the lavatory, hiding her face in her hands.
Life as the Fifth Hokage, Tsunade found, tended to revolve around the large, often overburdened desk in her office. Paperwork, meetings, paperwork about meetings, meetings about paperwork, paperwork about meetings about paperwork... some days the tedium was overwhelming. Luckily, on those days Tsunade knew when to take a break, and by break, she meant gorge herself on sake and gambling. She was on the cusp of declaring the start of her own personal "break time" when the door to her office opened.
"Er, Hokage-sama," Izumo said nervously with just his head peeking through the set of double doors. "Sakura-san is here to-"
Whatever the shaggy, dark-haired shinobi had intended to say was lost in a cry of pain as Tsunade watched her roseate apprentice storm into the Hokage's office. The Legendary Sucker winced as Sakura slammed the door shut and heard the thudding echoes as Izumo bounded across the floor outside. And apparently down the steps as well.
Tsunade hoped he broke something that would require her attention. Well, after her furious apprentice at any rate.
"I can see you're making the most of your stealth training, Sakura," Tsunade said with a smirk. "I have to say, that was fast. I only sent out the summons for your team a few minutes ago."
"There's not going to be a team if I can get my hands on that idiot," Sakura muttered, her aforementioned hands flexing into small glowing fists.
"Which one?" Tsunade asked. Normally the default answer to that question would be "Naruto" but to her surprise the returned Uchiha scion, too, made an inordinate number of gaffes according to the pink-haired medic.
"Naruto," Sakura spat. "He's up to something and so help me, when I find him, he's going to need every damned bit of demon chakra he can get to heal his sorry ass."
"Oh? What's he done now?" Tsunade asked, rolling her eyes.
"He broke up with me!" Sakura exclaimed. "TWICE!"
Tsunade arched one blonde eyebrow as she looked at her apprentice, searching for any sign of deceit. After studying the girl for a lengthy stretch, Tsunade found her curiosity piqued.
"What in heaven's name did you do to get Naruto of all people to break up with you? Do you know how much he cares about you?" the Hokage asked.
"What?" Sakura blurted, her face going a little red. "I mean, yeah, I know he's been asking me out for years, but this doesn't even make any sense!"
"Were you perhaps taking him for granted?" Tsunade asked, reveling in the chance to dig into somebody else's love life. "I mean, I know he's been devoted, but that's no excuse to be reckless with someone's heart, Sakura."
"Reckless with his heart?!" Sakura screeched. "But we've never even dated!"
"Or have you?" Tsunade asked, narrowing her eyes.
"'Or have I?' Are you insane, too?"
"Am I?" Tsunade asked, smirking while crossing her arms. She didn't have a clue as to what her high-strung protege was blathering on about, but it'd been months since she'd managed to wind Sakura up like this. Deciding to relent before Sakura thought herself into a stroke, Tsunade asked, "What's the big deal anyway?"
"The big deal is that now everyone in the hospital is giving me a cold shoulder, telling me to give Naruto another chance," Sakura said, her words getting faster as her mania picked up. "And everyone else seems to be feeling sorry for me that things didn't work out. But the biggest deal is that we never even dated to begin with!"
"Oh," Tsunade said, nodding sagely. "So then you're not upset that he dumped you, but that everyone saw it, right?"
"No!" Sakura answered. Then she stopped cold and thought about what the elder woman had said. "I mean- I've never even had a boyfriend and now suddenly I've been ditched twice in one day by somebody I've never dated? Wouldn't you be upset?"
"I don't know, Sakura," Tsunade said reclining back in her office chair. "I've never really been dumped by people I wasn't dating. Or people I was dating, come to think of it. Are you sure there's something you're not telling me? Like something going on after all those little ramen dinners?"
Before Sakura could answer in her most indignant tone, the double doors opened and in waltzed the rest of her team. Naruto, grinning with his fingers laced behind his head, turned from Sasuke and Sai to grin at the kunoichi in front of them.
"Heya, Old Hag!" he said with his normal exuberance. "Sakura-chan!"
Sasuke and Sai both ended up restraining the pink-haired kunoichi from finishing off the blonde after she'd punched him through two walls.
"I hate my life," Sakura grumbled, sinking into her parents' sofa. Letting her head loll back, she closed her eyes and scanned her memory for a technique that would erase the day from her mind. Finding nothing, Sakura whimpered and amazingly found yet an even more boneless position to emulate.
"That good, dear?" her father asked, an amused undercurrent to his voice.
"Dad, you're mocking me and my pain," Sakura said from her forlorn station. "That's not fair."
"You're right, dear," her father said as he ruffled Sakura's already tousled pink locks. "It's not fair, but I had to stop playing fair once you joined the academy so I'm used to it."
"Are you torturing our daughter again?" a voice sounded from the kitchen.
"I can't be held responsible," Sakura's father replied loud enough to be heard. He chuckled as Sakura groaned in defeat and raised her head to make eye contact. "Wanna talk about it?"
"Gods no," Sakura said, shooting her father an incredulous look. "I just want to forget this day ever happened."
"It can't be that bad."
"I got put on D-ranked cleaning duty around the Administration Tower after getting kicked off my team for their little B-ranked whatever," Sakura admitted sourly.
"Holy-!" her father blurted, stopping himself before he could swear in front of his daughter. Though logically, he knew she'd probably heard such from that Uzumaki boy or worse from the Fifth Hokage. "What did you do to merit that?"
"Why do you assume it's my fault?!" Sakura shouted, her face equal parts innocence and outrage. Her father merely raised an eyebrow. "Fine! I knocked a couple holes through some walls, but I was perfectly justified!"
"I'm sure those walls were asking for it, Sakura-chan," her father nodded. While technically he had never progressed beyond the academy in his shinobi career, he had seen his daughter in action once and knew better than to incite her wrath. Especially since he'd grown rather fond of the new couch.
"Ugh! You're still making fun of me!" Sakura whined as she slumped back into her cushiony refuge.
Before her father could confirm or deny Sakura's allegations, the front doorbell chimed. The Haruno patriarch debated on whether or not to antagonize his only child further, but decided against it. With a parting pat on Sakura's head, her father ambled over to the front door a smile on his face. That smile slipped considerably when he found a familiar blonde shinobi at his threshold.
"Uzumaki-san," he said politely.
"Haruno-san," Naruto said, acknowledging the formal distance between them. "Is Sakura-chan in?"
"Yes, she's just resting. Would you like to come in?"
"Nah, I just need to tell her somethin'. Shouldn't take too long," Naruto said, scratching the back of his head. Sakura's father had never really warmed up to blonde demon vessel, though Naruto wasn't sure if it was lingering resentment or just general, fatherly overprotectiveness of Sakura. Either way, Naruto had long ago realized that manners were actually needed for dealing with Sakura's father. A situation Tsunade had been none too thrilled to learn, as Naruto's expanded medical history could attest.
"Well step inside and I'll get her," the older man said, ushering the young shinobi inside. "Sakura! Visitor!"
"Thanks for letting the Motokawas know, dad!" Sakura shouted back from the couch, eliciting a smile from both of the men standing in the entryway.
With much exaggerated struggle and fanfare, Sakura hoisted herself from her upholstered haven. Leaving no room to the imagination concerning her mood, she marched to the door with heavy footfalls and the occasional grumbled condemnation. Her griping was brought up short, however, when Sakura spied the identity of her visitor.
"Naruto?!" she exclaimed, clearly shocked.
"Hiya, Sakura-chan," Naruto said, his tone subdued and almost wistful. Sakura's instincts immediately told her to be on her guard. "Can we talk for a minute? Er, outside?"
"NO," Sakura stated, refusing to go along with whatever insane prank the blonde had up his sleeve. And certainly not in public again! Crossing her arms, she boldly declared, "Like hell I'm going outside."
"I see," Naruto said, nodding in understanding. Sakura missed the quick glance of his eyes towards her father. "Then I guess I can say what I have to here."
"Damn right you can," Sakura huffed. Idly she wondered just how much trouble she'd be in for hospitalizing the moron. With no public property to factor in, Sakura was reasonably sure Tsunade wouldn't mind. Training accidents happen all the time, after all, right?
"Sakura-chan," Naruto started, bringing the pink-haired girl out of her reverie. "I don't blame you at all for what happened, but I think, maybe, it was just one of those things where we moved too fast and now those feelings in the beginning have just been... worn down and drifted apart. And not just because of, well, THAT. I do still care about you, but, maybe when you've gotten things together more we can give it another try."
Then, hesitantly, Naruto raised his hand and gave Sakura an awkward pat on the shoulder. "Good luck, Sakura-chan," he said before exiting the Haruno household.
Sakura, for her part, felt slow. Somehow, given the nature of her day, she'd seen Naruto's speech coming. A speech at least, probably another break up one. She had not, however, expected this break-up from an imaginary relationship to be ALL. HER. FAULT. At least before, Naruto had the decency to make himself the fall guy! But blaming her for their relationship deteriorating?!
"I'm going to kill him," Sakura seethed. "Over and over again."
"What, exactly," her father asked, like the gathering of thunderheads, "was 'moving too fast?'"
Sakura's beautiful vengeance would have to wait, it seemed. Her head snapped to view the cloudy countenance of her father as his eyes became sharper. Realizing that he'd heard everything that Naruto had said, Sakura rushed to control the damage.
"Dad, it- it's not what it sounds like, okay?" Sakura stammered, already seeing how unfavorably things were beginning to unfold. "Naruto and I- there's nothing going on between us. I don't know what he's up to, but this is all just some big prank. You have to believe me!"
"Sakura-chan," her father said, his posture deflating somewhat. He offered her that same reassuring and trusting smile that had seen her through some of the worst of her school growing pains. "I know that I've never really... approved of Naruto. But I'd like to think that even with that you would've told me about you two."
"And," he continued, ignoring her outburst, "if you're in some kind of trouble, dear, you should know you can always count on us. Um, just... how much trouble are you in, Sakura-chan? Not that I'll judge you! No! No no no no no! I, uh, well, is it really that bad? I thought your mother had explained all of that... er, stuff to you, is all."
Sakura may not have been a so-called genius shinobi, but she was still one of the keenest minds in Konohagakure. Meaning it took her less than three seconds to translate her father's nervous body language, aggravatingly vague comments and flustered expression. All that on top of her previous stress lead to only one conclusion:
"Just what the hell do you think happened?!" Sakura bellowed, her face red with fury and embarrassment.
"Er, maybe I should get your mother."
As she made her way through the market crowd, Sakura decided that things were simply not going her way. Anyone foolish enough to stay in her path might've agreed with that point, noting her disheveled appearance and harried demeanor. They probably would've also gained a fist full of medic-ninja wrath for their observation, to boot.
Sakura had slaved under the brutal taskmaster that was the Fifth Hokage and Legendary Slug Tamer, Tsunade. She had weathered Akatsuki, tailed demons and even a horrible acne flair-up caused by gifted chocolates to which Ino KNEW she was allergic. Sakura was the tree of her namesake, strong, enduring and pink.
But a week of Uzumaki Naruto randomly breaking up with her over and over again in front of damned near the entire village had whittled her resolve and nerves into so many petals in the wind. She'd battered him enough to where even the strongest genjutsu should've broken. Sakura couldn't fathom Naruto keeping up a practical joke after so much negative reinforcement. Hell, she'd even called in sick to the hospital to throw him off her routine!
Now, in desperate straits, Sakura found herself consulting probably with the last person she wanted to have a heart to heart conversation.
Uchiha Sasuke glanced at her over his shoulder, eyebrow quirked in mute curiosity. A nod of acknowledgment was all Sakura received before the dark haired shinobi turned back to the small clearing at the center of the market. Sakura grit her teeth for a moment at such a casual dismissal before she, too, noticed who occupied the empty area of the street.
"Ha ha! My eternal rival this time it is my turn to select the method of our competition!" said a booming voice.
"Tell me they're not at it AGAIN," Sakura said, glowering past Sasuke.
"Fine," Sasuke said, not turning away from the flamboyantly green taijutsu expert and his long-suffering rival. "Lee and Neji aren't about to engage in some idiot challenge again. Even though they are."
Sakura could've belted the Uchiha genius one for the smirk that followed his blase announcement. She sighed and resisted the urge to massage her temples. Showing any sign of weakness or distress in front of Lee would no doubt result in intense scrutiny and attention she did NOT want. Particularly the attention of the ever-insightful Hyuuga Byakugan.
"I don't suppose you can tear yourself away for a few minutes to talk to me, can you?" Sakura asked sweetly.
"And miss this?"
Snorting, Sakura grumbled, "Fine, then I'm holding you responsible if anyone overhears us."
"Fine," Sasuke relented, rolling his eyes. Instantly his dark, almost coal black irises bled into the frightening crimson of the Sharingan, with its three tomoe beginning to spin. "We're in a genjutsu where no one's going to hear what we say. Happy?"
"Then speak quickly before Neji notices and starts asking questions."
"Okay," Sakura barked, defensive. "Okay, so there's something wrong with Naruto."
"You've just now noticed?" Sasuke asked sarcastically. He kept his eyes on Rock Lee and Hyuuga Neji as Lee pondered his challenge.
"Hey!" Sakura yelled, socking him none too gently in the shoulder. "I don't know why he's doing it, but Naruto's been breaking up with me at least twice a day for the past week."
"So? SO?!" Sakura screamed, failing to notice that both Lee and Neji had ceased doing their hand-stands to stare the roseate kunoichi. "So I'm getting sick of that blonde ramen glutton breaking up with me! That's so!"
"Hmph," Sasuke said, his half-chuckle full of smug derision -- so full Sakura found her fists clenched and teeth barred. "If you don't want him to break up with you, then stop getting back together."
"Yosh! That is truly a genius suggestion, Sasuke-kun!" Lee exclaimed, bounding over to brandish an upturned thumb. "I expected nothing less from last of the noble Uchiha!"
The pinging of flawless, white teeth made Sakura blanch herself. Like dawn to a vampire, awareness of her surroundings crept up on Sakura with the sort of ominous portent reserved only for imminent death. Slowly, ever so slowly, she turned to see not only Lee and Neji staring at her, but a good number of market-goers had also stopped to take in the spectacle. She could literally FEEL the blood drain from her face and prayed that the slight tingling in her fingers was a sign of a fatal stroke.
"Oi! You shoppin' too, Sakura-chan?"
Alas, it was not to be.
With one sack full of cup ramen and another filled with items that looked curiously like actual vegetables, Naruto strolled up to join the impromptu gathering. Carefree grin in place, the blonde shinobi acted like nothing was amiss. That he had, in fact, NOT been dumping Sakura with varying degrees of ceremony for the past week like some relentless devil. Once he came close enough, though, he cocked his head like a puppy and scrunched his face up as he took in her complexion.
"Hey, Sakura-chan," he said. "Are you feelin' okay?"
It would later be determined by general consensus, that THAT was perhaps the exact WRONG thing to say.
"Me?" Naruto asked. He pointed to himself, his face a masterpiece of confused innocence. Naruto's expression was hastily altered into one of surprised agony as Sakura sucker punched him before delivering a bone-rattling uppercut. Her victim, however, received no reprieve when Sakura quickly latched onto the collar of Naruto's standard orange and black jacket to keep him from rocketing away.
"Do you have any idea what you're doing to me!?" Sakura seethed, manhandling the blonde for emphasis. "This isn't some stupid prank, you moron! This is my life!"
"Er, Sakura-san, maybe you shouldn't-" Rock Lee attempted to interject.
"Quiet or you're next, green bean," Sakura growled, not even bothering to remove her piercing gaze from the hapless blonde ninja in her clutches.
"Ah thih oo boke mah chaw," Naruto said, lisping.
"If that's all I broke, count yourself lucky," Sakura muttered. "Naruto, I want to make this perfectly clear to you: We're not dating! Do you understand? Do my words have meaning in that noodle-addled brain of yours?! Do they!?"
"Wait," Sasuke interrupted, stepping close -- but not TOO close -- to the scene. "Is this how you're breaking up with him?"
With the query loosed, whispers and muttered raced through the gathered passers-by like a wildfire of disapproval caught in the winds of gossip. Sakura spun around and not only saw, but could feel the oppressive weight of judgment being meted.
"Hold on!" Sakura shouted, dropping Naruto to gesture wildly. "You don't understand! He was going to break up with me again!"
She then winced at just how bad that last sentence had sounded.
"That was most unyouthful, Sakura-san," Lee said, his voice fraught with recrimination.
"He's right," Sasuke added, shaking his head. "There are certainly... gentler methods for breaking a man's heart."
The dark haired shinobi then knelt down to scoop up his fallen friend. With Naruto's drooping body secured, Sasuke turned to join the rest of the dispersing crowd. Soon only Sakura was left standing in the middle of the market street, feeling like she'd been accused of drowning kittens.
In a shaky and panicked voice, she said, "But we're not even dating!"
"Your plan sucks," Naruto mumbled, as he held a strip of bandaging tight with his teeth. With practiced care, the blonde container of the Nine-Tailed Fox Demon wound his bruised middle with the other end. Tearing the gauze at the roll, Naruto then knotted it with the end formerly obstructing his mouth. "This is the best you could come up with, mister genius who makes everyone else look dumb?"
"What?" Sasuke asked, actually bothering to look annoyed. "I told you that she'd probably react this way eventually. Besides, it's better than YOUR plan."
"What the hell was wrong with my plan?!"
"Perhaps," Sai said, merrily sitting atop Naruto's kitchen table swinging his legs. "It was the part where you pointed out that no one else would date the hag and propositioned her?"
"Propa- ? I don't what you're sayin' but it's stupid," Naruto said. He moved to cross his arms and show the strength of his conviction on that statement, but instead winced in pain.
"Listen, dunce," Sasuke said, ignoring the ensuing scowl from his blonde friend. "As much as I'd rather have nothing to do with your so-called love life, you're too damned hopeless to get anywhere on your own."
"Besides, it's obvious your penis isn't going to be netting you any admirers," Sai said, smiling. The two charter members of Team 7 paused to express their disgust with the former ANBU shinobi. Sai, for his part, smiled even wider.
"There are three things you need to win a female over," Sasuke said, trying to push Sai's comments out of his mind. "Desirability, unattainability, and availability."
"What the-?" Naruto asked, nearly choking. "You lifted that from Icha Icha Service! And that stupid 'break a man's heart' crap you were saying earlier!"
"I recognize truth when I see it," Sasuke admitted with a shrug. "The point is, you might have been able to win Sakura while missing just one of those traits, but you have none of them, dunce."
"Truth my ass," Naruto huffed. "How can I be unattainable AND available?"
"Simple, dickless," Sai chimed in. "Nobody wants you, so you're undesirable. You stop thinking the moment breasts are in view, so you're very attainable. But you're stuck on the ugly crone, so you're unavailable. See? You have no value as a conquest."
"God, I hate you," Naruto said. Dropping his head in defeat, he warily looked at his fishnet undershirt and dreaded trying to put it back on with his sore ribs. "And how does this whole messin' with Sakura-chan's head and me getting the shit beat out of me fix any of those three things?"
"Oh, it doesn't," Sasuke said. "But the two of you are just so damned pathetic. I figure once her higher brain functions are addled, she'll be desperate enough even you'll seem like a decent prospect."
"It's cute how you act all nonchalant and gruff, Sasuke-kun," Sai said. "Like you're gay for both of them."
Naruto pressed his palms into his eyes as Sasuke drew his Kusanagi blade. Groaning, he tried to shut out the sounds of Sasuke and Sai getting into yet another fight. When a familiar crash rang through the small apartment, Naruto said, "Both of you. I really hate both of you."
Slouching on his stool, Naruto sat at the ice cream parlor's counter listlessly picking at his frozen dessert. The normally cheerful motif of the store felt cheap and contrived as the blonde shinobi barely paid attention to Konohamaru's yammering. Naruto was only peripherally aware of the genin's attempts to make capturing a rogue cat seem herculean in scope when a familiar chill danced across his spine like an operatic crescendo. Suddenly, his strawberry sundae lacked the appeal it had five minutes ago.
Naruto swiveled to eye the parlor's entrance with trained anxiety. Haruno Sakura soon filled the doorway and from the expression on her face, Naruto wasn't sure whether to be excited or run for his life. As part of the plan, he had avoided Sakura for the past week. It was supposed to give Sakura time to think about him and let her gather her nerve. Seeing her resolve before him, however, Naruto's subconscious fight or flight response only became more insistent on the latter as Sakura stalked toward him.
"Uh, heya, Sakura-chan!" he offered, scratching the back of his head.
"Is this seat taken?" she asked, her words clipped, precise and borderline malevolent.
"Uh, Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked, royally confused.
"What?" Sakura smirked, as she slid onto the stool. "Are you gonna try to break up with me again?"
"Boss?" Konohamaru asked. "Is she okay?"
"Thought about it," Naruto said glibly, ignoring his subordinate and part-time rival. "But Tsunade-baachan said you'd been havin' a rough week, so I thought I'd give it rest."
"Ah." Sakura nodded.
"Hey," Naruto said, delivering a soft nudge with his elbow. "Hey, you're not supposed to be all angry and stuff, y'know. You're s'posed to be happy that you've discovered you can't live without me."
At this revelation, Sakura snorted and grinned. "Yeah, that's what Sai was telling me."
"Spilled his guts, huh?"
"Well, it was either talk or learn to paint with his toes," Sakura said. The singsong quality of her words made both males present gulp.
"I'm surprised you didn't hunt down the bastard," Naruto said. He took a bite of his sweetened sludge before offering a lopsided grin.
"He's been hiding."
"Mmm," Naruto nodded, spoon still in his mouth. Clearing the remaining sundae from it, he gave his own appraisal. "I guess that's why he's called a genius."
"I have to admit," Sakura said, "that it was an interesting way of getting my attention. Not every girl gets to endure the equivalent of two weeks' worth of A-ranked psychological torture."
"Hey! I told that bastard we should've tried the jealousy ploy first! But no! He insisted you needed to lose your will to live before you'd ask me out," Naruto rambled, jabbing at his slushy dessert.
She groaned. "Good grief, Naruto. You listened to Sasuke-kun?"
"Well, the drugged ramen wasn't working, so I was desperate," he shrugged.
Sakura sat upright and glared at him. In a terse voice, she asked, "You're joking right?"
"Yeah, sure," Naruto said, scratching the back of his head and sweating.
Watching the blonde shinobi squirm under her scrutinizing gaze, Sakura heaved a bone-weary sigh. As loathe as she was to admit it, Sakura HAD spent a great deal of time thinking about Naruto and whatever hypothetical relationship the two might've had that he kept ending. She had questioned herself before coming to the realization that it was just a more elaborate form of the way little boys picked on the little girls they liked. In a way, it was like seeing an overly loyal, brain-damaged puppy trying to play fetch: simultaneously pathetic and endearing. Inhaling deeply to fortify herself against her better judgment, Sakura boldly stood up and towered over Naruto.
"I, uh, guess this is where the violence starts, huh?" Naruto asked, gently kicking the counter with his right foot. Neither noticed Konohamaru choke and dive through the dessert shop's front window.
"Ha!" Sakura barked, jerking Naruto out of his contemplative mood. "You didn't think I'd let you off that easy, did you?"
"Uh, Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked, royally confused.
"Oh sure," Sakura smirked, hands on hips. "You only THOUGHT you were luring me into some ridiculous plan. But it was me who was luring you into MY trap!"
"What trap was that?"
"The trap that you obviously fell into, you big goofball," she said, gloating. Sakura grasped Naruto's jacket sleeve and tugged him to his feet. "You've played hard to get long enough and now that I've won you back, you're stuck with me, sucker."
"Wait," Naruto said, his eyes widening as his brain struggled to catch up. "Is this- Are we going on a- ?"
"And another thing," Sakura said, tossing some money on the counter. "Since we're back together now, I'll be expecting flowers. I know you don't understand them, so you'll just have to ask Ino about what I like and what they mean. Nothing pink, though! I get enough of that kind of crap from my aunt."
Naruto beamed, following as she pulled him along. "Why did I ever break up with you?"
"Beats me," Sakura said, offering a small smile as she theatrically rolled her eyes. "But it's not happening again, got it?"
Written for the 3rd Heaven & Earth NaruSaku contest, keyword: ice cream. First prize winner. ;)
Many thanks to Random1377 and Geor-sama, who provided invaluable sounding board services and decided, much like Sakura in the end, to steer INTO the crazy as opposed to otherwise. Also, for those who've read the story before, I have tweaked a few things here and there, particularly the ending. It's not a monumental change, but I think this works better as it plays off the multiple "break ups" rather than just her making up her own crazy allegations that they've been together for a long time.