Day Nine

The Not-So-Happy Ending

Something wasn't right.

Sai knew that the moment he entered his dim, quiet apartment. Everything was in swirls, of course—which was a given, considering how Tenten and Lee had dragged him to every place they could, to celebrate youth and springtime and shurikens and...whatever else there was to celebrate. They'd been so adamant and persistent about it.

And with the celebration, came drink after drink after drink.

It wasn't a bad life—if only his head would stop spinning now.

Trying to get his thoughts in order, the pale-skinned shinobi struggled once more to remember why he felt something wasn't right. It couldn't be the lovely haze in his mind—according to some book he read (what was the title again?), this was another process of socializing: the drinking spree that so many ninjas savored, whenever a hard mission was successful and they got to live through another day. True, he hadn't exactly been on a mission lately—but he still lived through another day, didn't he? In his analysis, that was good enough to celebrate and learn more about people-interacting.

At least, that's what Naruto had said. Dickless had always been an honest person, so Sai had no problem trusting him.

It was just a shame that this socializing thing involved so much scattered thoughts and mind-swirling.

Resolutely, Sai hazily made his way into what he knew was his living room (he wasn't sure, because at the moment it was all just a big blur of black and white), and tried to look for the couch. Maybe he should put his head down for a while and close his eyes. Rest a bit. He really had enough for one day.

Human interacting was too much hard work sometimes.

There was a quiet rustle from the corner that even a drunken man in a stupor was bound to hear, no matter how short it was. On instinct, he took out his kunai, and aimed it in the direction of said sound.


A pause.

"Hey. You missed."

Squinting his eyes, Sai looked in the direction of the voice, and found what could only be described as a small, pink blur.

He moved forward, and stumbled—ending up sitting aplop something soft and squishy. The squishy thing yelped, and pushed him, until he was sinking further into something even softer, and cold.

"Jeez, Sai. Are you blind?"

Ahh. That explains the pink blur.

"Hello, Ugly."


Then there was a small, amused sigh.

"You're drunk."

Sai made a non-committal reply.

"What were you doing all night long?" she asked.

"Socializing," Sai said, slurring a bit over the words.

There was a laugh, as the blur moved closer. A moment later, Sai felt two warm things touching his forehead. He closed his eyes, and let himself fall to sleep. Then there was a bolt of chakra, and he opened his eyes once more. Everything was still kind of blurry, but he found that he wasn't dizzy anymore, and his head didn't feel like it was being pounded on with some really sharp nails.

Or dozens of Dickless screeching in the air.

"Thank you, Ugly."

"You're welcome, Sai. That was a sleeping chakra, you know."


"It will take effect in a few minutes."



"What are you doing here?" he finally asked.

The pink blur moved yet again, closer to him. He thought he saw her smile disappear, and a sad frown come into her face, but he couldn't be too sure. Before he could comprehend what it really was, the blur (he was now a bit sober to realize it was her head) was suddenly on his lap, snuggling.

"I just don't want to be alone," she whispered.

That was odd.

"Alone? Is that the same to lonely?" he questioned. "You can never be. You have friends like Dickless and Beautiful and Teme by you all the time."


He thought she wasn't going to answer, and his eyes grew heavy at the tranquility and peacefulness of everything.

"Naruto and Ino will just coddle me right now, and I'd hate that," she finally replied. "I don't want pity."

Sai looked at her head for a moment, remembering something else a book had said—if someone was sad, it was a friend's duty to offer some comfort, by means of a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to lend. Since Sakura didn't seem to want his shoulder enough to move away from his lap, and since she didn't seem like she wanted to talk at the moment, he did the best thing he could.

He put one hand on her hair, and began stroking.

He thought he felt her relax under his hand, though her own hand had suddenly fisted on his knee.

"What book did this come from, Sai?" Sakura murmured.

A pause.

"How to deal with the female breed," he finally remembered.

She muffled her laugh on his knee, her shoulders shaking.

"I think I'm going to hate that chauvinist book at lot," she said.

Then the shaking kept on, and for a moment, Sai thought it wasn't from laughing anymore. No laughing could wet his pants like that—only the emotion called tears could. Why was she crying? Wasn't crying for people who were in pain?

"Are you in pain?" he asked in confusion.

There was no reply.

Because he had no more words, Sai finally decided to let her keep shaking and wetting his clothing. He kept on stroking her hair, as gently as he could.

And, as the sleeping chakra worked its magic and his eyes drooped, he thought of only one thing.

Maybe emotions weren't worth it most of the time.

No book he's ever read certainly prepared him for the twitch in his heart when he felt his friend's misery washing over him like a cold, cold blanket.


Unfortunately, when Ino visited the house Hyuuga Saori was supposed to be in, nobody was home.

Or maybe that was fortunate, considering how the blond kunoichi was already not in the best of moods—and a Yamanaka Ino not in the best of moods was like an Uzumaki Naruto in his everyday life: do first, think very, very much later.

That would have been convenient, really—if the so-called enemy wasn't one talented, intelligent member of a prestigious clan.

Since this was practically a blessing in disguise (not that she would ever be willing to admit it), Ino chose to use the time to rethink her strategies. This led her to some very unusual places —Shikamaru's apartment being one. But the man was still sleeping, and she didn't exactly feel like waking him up with her very loud thought process. The cemetery was her other option—but she scratched that after a while, because really…her old sensei would probably end up rolling in his graveyard when he heard how her evil and manipulative mind worked.

That left a randomly nice, quiet bar.

With a resolute mind, Ino settled for the one nearest where she was—an old bar that many shinobi didn't really go to, considering how small and stale it was. Not that it mattered, really. She plopped herself on a stool, and told the bartender to give her the strongest sake they had. The bartender eyed her warily for a second (it probably didn't get sexily-clad females ordering such strong drinks in the morning), before hastily pouring her drink once her glare told him she was being serious.

Yeah, that's right. No more ditzy Ino this time. She was being serious.

Because she was too preoccupied with thoughts of revenge and justice and…revenge (and wild, wild sex with Konoha's resident genius afterward), she didn't notice the stool a few spaces away being occupied, nor the mumble of the person for a hot, strong drink. She didn't even notice the bartender give said person the same look he had given Ino—and said person giving the bartender an even fiercer glare.

But she finally noticed when the bartender grumbled.

"Damn kunoichi. Unbelievable species."

And when the female near her barked out a very temperamental reply.

"Oh, shut up. I'm drinking my way to oblivion here—let me do it in peace!"

There was no mistaking who the voice belonged to.

Surprised, Ino subtly tilted her head. Sure enough, there on the nearby stool sat none other than Karin in last night's clothes—looking like a cross between a grouchy grizzly bear ready to bare its teeth and a millionaire who had just lost every penny he had.

It was leaning more towards the millionaire.

It didn't look like Karin noticed her. Normally, this would have irked the blond (seriously, who didn't notice her?), but at the moment she saw it as an opportunity to check the red-haired kunoichi out and observe her actions. Karin had already downed her first cup, and was already asking (demanding) the bartender for a second.




She looked so…glum. Reluctantly, Ino's anger and resentment towards the girl disappeared completely at the sight. It wasn't right for someone to look this defeated.

A lightbulb went on in her head. Ino rolled her eyes, ignoring the idea that came with it.

It persisted.

Oh, fine.

With a sigh, she went off her stool and reluctantly stalked until she reached the area where Karin was sitting. She tapped her foot, one hand on her hip, getting impatient when she was still pointedly ignored.

She determinedly cleared her throat.

"Hey. You."

There was a pause, before Karin finally turned her head slightly to acknowledge the sound. It only lasted for a second, before she promptly turned back to her drink.

"Just leave me alone," she muttered. "I don't want to hear anyone defending Pinky right now. Especially someone that certain Pinky calls a Pig."

Blinking in surprise, Ino opened her mouth.


"So what if you're her best friend and you think she and Sasuke-kun are made for each other and all that stupid crap?"


"I get it. I get it, okay? It's over. Boo-hoo. I lost."


"So stop shoving it down my face and making me feel—"

"Shut the hell up, would you, Four-eyes? I'm on your damn side!"


The bartender pretended not to listen to the two (he wasn't doing a very good job at it)—then hastily averted his eyes when both blue and red eyes glared viciously at him.

Then they scowled at each other.

"I am not Four-eyes," Karin snapped, standing up.

"Do not call me a pig!" Ino growled, both hands now on her hips.



The glares disappeared, replaced by wary stares now. Slowly, they both sat back on the stools, and turned to the bartender once more.

"Tea," Ino announced.

"Sake," Karin called out at the same time.

"Tea," Ino repeated with more conviction (in her case, this meant with as much volume as possible), daring the other to contradict her. Karin merely sulked, and waited for the bartender (who was now nervously stashing away whatever sake there was in sight) to bring them steaming cups.

There was a long, awkward silence.

After what seemed like hours (which were just a few minutes, really), the tea was finally served. Without further ado, Ino gulped down hers (without so much as a yelp when it practically scalded her tongue), while Karin took a small, reluctant sip.

More silence.

Then taking a deep breath, Ino turned to the other once more.

"I meant it," she intoned matter-of-factly. "I'm not gonna pick a fight with you."

The red-haired kunoichi still eyed her warily.

"As long as you don't interfere with Sakura and Sasuke anymore."


Then Karin sighed, and took another sip of her tea.

"I know. I won't. Like I said—it's over."

Satisfied, Ino regarded the other more thoughtfully now.

"It's not the end of the world, you know," the blond said.

Karin ignored that, and kept on sipping her tea.

"There's still Suigetsu," Ino continued.

Karin promptly choked on her drink. She coughed so violently that Ino had to pound her on the back.

"Okay, okay," the blond retracted hastily, "Maybe not him. But there are lots of hot shinobi out there that could be good for you. Go have crazy, wild sex with them instead."

Recovered from the choking episode, Karin rolled her eyes. "Gee, that's awfully nice of you," she scoffed, sarcasm dripping. "Thanks for the suggestion."

"No problem!" Ino chirped brightly.

After that, they fell into another, less awkward silence. Karin wasn't so bad, when Ino thought about it. Just…misguided, maybe? The blond may not be like her best friend (who would probably end up being compassionate to a cockroach if the situation called for it), but she wasn't lacking in the compassion department, either—and at the moment, her so-called compassion called for her to do four very important things.

One: make sure Karin left the two frustrating lovebirds alone for good.

Two: find Karin a hot shinobi who will show her the wicked ways of sex and intimacy.

Three: stop thinking about sex too much before it affected her brain and made her jump Shikamaru before she had everything settled.

Four: team up with Karin for…an adventure.


A pause, before the red-haired girl inclined her head.


"This establishes that we're not enemies, right?"

Another pause.

"If you say so," Karin muttered.

"I do say so!" Ino declared confidently. "So you know who the enemy is, right?"


Ino interrupted with a vicious growl.

"Kidding, kidding," Karin said. "Jeez. It's not Pink—er, Sakura."

Ino nodded approvingly. "That's good. Because you ought to realize there's really just one enemy in all of this. One who deserves punishment."

"Er…okay. If you say so," Karin replied, now looking bewildered.

Taking one last gulp of tea, the blond stood up, eyes gleaming mischievously.


"Yeah, Pi—er, Ino?"

"How about you and I take a nice stroll into the Hyuuga compound and go give someone a…well-deserved visit?"

There was yet another pause as Karin's confusion deepened—then it vanished, as comprehension dawned, followed by surprise, then approval, then…excitement. Finally, the red-haired kunoichi gave out a real smile for the first time that day.

Or a feral grin, to be more precise.

Triumphantly, Ino grinned back.

It was time for their adventure to begin.


An hour later, the Hokage of Konoha was found staring outside her office window in disbelief and deep, deep confusion.


"Yes, Hokage-sama?"

"I don't get it."

"…get what?"

"Why is there another girl hanging upside down on the Hokage mountain on top of my…carved nose? Is this a protest against me or something?"


Six months passed.

For any normal man who had just gotten his heart crushed, per se, the healing time would have been long over, and the recovery, while sometimes a slow process, would have been a welcome change.

For Uchiha Sasuke, there was no time of recovery—mostly because there really was nothing to recover from, nothing to be healed. He made a tiny mistake in his life, a tiny blip that didn't really matter, that he didn't really care about.

Or so he told himself.

Life went on. He, being a shinobi, knew that more than anyone.

It didn't matter that during his entire period of no-recovery and no-healing, there was something missing.

Or so Naruto often reminded him.

"Oh, man. I can't believe we're going back to Konoha! After all those months of stupid reconnaissance! It was a total waste of time!"

Speak of the devil.

Sasuke didn't bother pointing out that it was said reconnaissance that got them the valuable information their village wanted—an information that was necessary for the safety of the people and the Hokage herself. It wasn't like Naruto was going to listen, anyway—they would just end up getting into another one of their infamous arguments that he wasn't really in the mood for at the moment (not that he would ever admit that he actually was in the mood for them at times).

"I finally get to see my Hinata-chan again! I bet she's looking as beautiful as always—I just want to hug her and kiss her with all my might!"


After a few seconds, Naruto finally stopped in the middle of their branch-leaping, halting right in front of the other. Unperturbed, Sasuke sidestepped.

Naruto merely blocked his path again.

"Teme, you know what you're in?"

"In annoyance. Let's just go home."

"You're in denial."

"Dobe, I said let's just—"

"You're furious and hurt because she left without a single word, and now you're trying to show that you don't care by shoving a stick up your ass again—the same one she removed when you were together."


"When will you grow up, teme?"

"Dobe, shut—"


The first-name calling had him so surprised that Sasuke shut his mouth for a second—which Naruto, of course, took as an advantage to pummel on.

"You love her and she loves you—and don't you dare deny that you don't, because I see the way you refuse to be with other girls and dream of her nearly every night! You think I didn't know that? Hah! Why can't you both just accept it all and be together like you're supposed to be?"


There was something wrong in that statement, in Sasuke's opinion.

He didn't bother trying to dodge or deny it.

"She doesn't love me," he intoned, voice calm.

"How the hell do you know that??"

"She left. It's that simple," he said curtly, in a tone that implied he didn't want to discuss it anymore.

But Naruto being Naruto, he persisted.

"True. And you didn't follow her."

There was a heavy pause. Then, with a sigh, the blond loudmouth broke it first, shaking his head and giving a small, sad smile.

"She tried to follow you when you left years ago, Sasuke. I think it's time to return the favor of trying."

And with that parting line, Naruto finally turned around and resumed his branch-leaping towards Konoha. Their home.

The silence went on for Sasuke, as he stood in place, and stared at the conspicuous clothing on his almost-brother's back.

Maybe he did make a mistake. A tiny blip, a tiny error. But it didn't matter, not at all, that his life was now back to routine, with something somewhat missing. That there was always this weird ache in his chest (something he always, always ignored), and that this always happened every time his thoughts strayed to green eyes, and tender hands, and a bright, bright smile of care, of passion. Of bewitching spirit, and fierce, loyal soul.

It didn't matter.

It didn't.

…it did.

Shut it. It's over.

At the rational voice inside his head, his heart closed once more, his emotions returning underneath their cold, cold mask.

There was no time for that now. It was all too late. It was.

…was it?

It was at this exact moment, when the questions surrounded him, that the rush of explosion happened, followed by Naruto's loud, horrified scream.

Sasuke's head snapped up.

And then all hell broke loose.


When Sakura woke up in the middle of her sleep on the first night of her return to Konoha, it was to the sound of the door being knocked on—loud, insistent raps that she knew could only belong to one eager person.

Well, two, actually—but only one was in the village, after all.

Grumbling under her breath, Sakura reluctantly kicked off her covers, the cold air instantly chilling her skin. She'd forgotten that she was only in her tank top and shorts, too tired to get up from bed when the wind had kicked up around midnight. Eyes still closed, her feet automatically fell to the floor (which ensured another blast of chill), and she sleepily made her way downstairs, her mind torn between wanting to shut into dreamland or planning ways of punishing the loud, loud door-knocker.

Couldn't Ino have waited until at least morning before getting into one of her many incurable gossip modes?

The latest gossip was still fresh in her mind, after all—that Ino and Karin were now friends (who knew six months could do that?), and that Karin was dating Kiba, of all people.

It was surprising, but nice.

It didn't change the fact that it still reminded her of someone else—just as it didn't change the fact that she really shouldn't be thinking about the past right now.

She quickly diverted her mind away from that, somewhat expertly (at least, she tried to believe so)—six months had given her time to practice, and perfect. Still grumbling slightly, Sakura opened her eyes and crossed her apartment's living room, unceremoniously opening the front door. Then she opened her mouth and prepared to lecture.

"Pig, this is really not the time—"

"Sakura, hospital. Now."

Something in the tone made Sakura stand straighter, and stop. Stare.

And her mind shut off at once, at the implication of what Ino's panicked blue eyes were saying. Her instincts screamed at her, an inner blow.

"…Sasuke?" she whispered.

However much her mind went relieved at the shaking of the blond's head, her heart still fell at the next words uttered.


"It's Naruto. He's dying."


When Sasuke opened his eyes, it was to the vision of white ceilings that looked all-too-familiar to him—even in his confused and disoriented state, he immediately knew where he was, as he'd been here too many times already in the past.

It took him five more seconds to remember why he was here now.

Abruptly, he sat up at once, inwardly wincing at the pain slicing through his ribs and left shoulder—none of which showed on his face, of course. Beside him, he heard a pen fumble on paper.

"Uchiha-san," an unfamiliar voice exclaimed in surprise. "You're awake! This is wonderful and—Uchiha-san! Where are you going? Uchiha-san—you can't—Uchiha-san!"

The Uchiha ignored the frantic nurse, making his painful way out of the hospital room before said nurse could even so much as move from her perch beside the bed. His movements were swift and silent, albeit a bit stiff, as he made his way to the one place where one of his few important people was at the moment.

His fists clenched at the memory of the sudden, unexpected ambush. At their defeat, no matter how slow it had been.

At Naruto's fall.

He barely had enough strength to carry the blond shinobi home, as well as the information scroll, before consciousness had ceased entirely for him.

The moment he arrived to the floor where the operating room was, Sasuke leaned on a wall for a second, to compose himself. Then he pushed off it, prepared to assess the situation.

Refusing to even consider that the other was in a different room altogether. No.

Not the morgue, not for Naruto. No.

It was at that exact moment that the door to his destination opened.

And out came a head of soft pink, a body splashed in blood, one hand clutching the doorknob and the other at her side, trembling quietly. She stopped, seeing him immediately. Then she stared—green eyes meeting onyx for the first time in six months.

In that stare, Sasuke saw too much directed at him: surprise, relief, worry, hurt, uncertainty.

And love.

So much love, too much of it, that it almost staggered him, leaving his mouth dry, at the vulnerability reflected inside her, at the raw passion of what she felt. For him. All for him.

His heart came back to life, in one single, gut-wrenching blow.

It seemed she began to realize just how much she was revealing, for she backed up a step, trembling again—before her emotions shut off, and her trembling ceased altogether. Her eyes were only weary now, and nearly blank.

Sasuke asked the one question he needed to ask at the moment.


Her blank eyes faltered, the weariness seeping through. But she smiled—a reassuring, tired smile, nonetheless beautiful.


"He's okay, Sasuke-kun…he's alive."

She smiled again.

Then, just as quickly as his heart came back to life at the sight of that smile, and beat in relief at the good news, it went cold once more, as Haruno Sakura's smile vanished completely, her eyes closing in exhaustion and her body toppling to the cold, hard tiles.

He wasn't fast enough to catch her.


What should have been a very pleasant and peaceful return home from a long mission wasn't turning out the way Sakura had planned it. She had it all listed out, really: come back home, give everyone a reassuring smile, hold her head up high against gloating fangirls, get her butt back into training…and move on.

She never expected Naruto to nearly die in her arms, and cause her almost a life's worth of panic and grief.

…she never expected to wake up in Sasuke's arms.

It had taken her a while to realize that, actually. Slightly disoriented, Sakura blinked her eyes, blearily staring at the window in front of her, where the not-so-brilliant light indicated that it was around morning. Blinking her eyes further, she became aware that she was surrounded by warmth, and a certain presence.

She looked up.

And found herself staring at a sleeping Uchiha.

Later on, when her shocked mind finally began to realize that they were in the same position they had been in when she had cried herself to sleep in his arms in the past, she stiffened immediately, as the memories came back—in too much force, and too much intensity. Without further ado, she began pushing off him.

Or at least, tried to. She really did.

But suddenly his arms tightened around her, instinctively. It was a gesture almost blatantly possessive, but protective at the same time. His head moved, settling on the crook of her neck at the moment, as if it was meant there. Then it moved again, his mouth gently touching her hair—now it was her head on the crook of his neck.

He smelled the same.

And she found she couldn't resist.

Blindly, Sakura stared at the floor (she was now oriented enough to recognize it as the floor of his childhood room), her hands fisting on her lap. Of course she had to resist—not doing so was out of the question. Her heart ached, and nearly melted, when she felt his one hand caress her arm slightly, almost in affection.

With much effort, her resolution came back, and she straightened once more, uncurling her hands and lifting them in time with her head to—

She froze.

He was awake.

And he was looking quietly at her.

Surprised, she stared at him for a moment, green eyes locking into onyx for the second time since her return.


"I—why am I here?"

"Hokage-sama asked you to be sent home. You fainted at the hospital."

It didn't really seem important to argue with him that he had mixed up her home with his—that wasn't the point here (or so she tried to tell herself).

"She asked you to do it? How could she, when she knows you're injured and—"

"I volunteered."

That shut her up again. But a nervous Sakura was a babbling Sakura. So she persisted—and also tried to resist being in his arms, by pushing off again. The action had her noticing that she wasn't in her blood-filled clothes anymore—she was now wearing a shirt. A blue shirt, to be precise—which, without even looking, she knew had his clan symbol at the back.

It was enough to make her slightly panic.

"Er—it's not really necessary. I need to get back to Naruto—"

"He's fine. He's stable."

"But I still need to check every once in a while—"

"The Hokage's doing it herself."

She couldn't help it. She kept on babbling.

"Okay, that's nice. I need to go and—talk to Ino. I haven't seen her since I left and I need to see through the bet—" At this point, she already regretted what she'd just said, but because his expression hadn't changed, she just went on. "It's not—I don't want to do it, but it needs to be over and done with. And I need to train, I haven't trained in months and I'm rusty and—"

This time, it was he who shut her up.

This time, she couldn't babble any longer, as shock filled her system when he put his mouth on hers.

It was a warm kiss, so much warmer than his embrace had been. His mouth moved, gentle and patient, inviting hers to partake in it. In the warmth. In the—

Her eyes widened, at what she felt there. It couldn't be. It couldn't. Despite herself, Sakura found herself responding, and kissing him back.

And in the split of a second, the kiss suddenly turned hungry. Hot. So hot, that she could feel the desperation in him—like he was thirsting for her, in ways unimaginable. His hands touched her skin in all the right places (heating them up to degrees that burned beyond pleasure), just as his mouth touched hers. Her belly hitched, her heart beat fast, as the sudden roaring in her head threatened to consume her, and swallow her whole.

Because she knew she was stronger than this now, she tried to stop kissing him and to resist once more. He must have sensed it, because he stopped kissing her on the mouth, and went to trail kisses on her cheek, her jaw, before settling on her neck, and burying his face there.

It took her a while to realize that her breath was coming out wild and unsteady, and she wanted nothing more than to stay in his arms for a long, long time.


"I thought I lost you."

His statement, after such heated pause, had her frozen again.

"I thought you died when you fainted."

His grip on her tightened again, but she hardly noticed, as she heard him mumble once more into her skin.

"I wasn't fast enough."

And then he slumped, his weight completely on her.


It didn't take her long to figure out that Uchiha Sasuke had passed out.

And it didn't take long for disappointment to set in when she realized that he had been delirious the whole time.


Waking up a second time to something warm on his belly was better than he thought it would be.

"Sasuke. Sasuke, wake up."

He opened his eyes, and found none other than Sakura staring at him, concern and care in her eyes. She was kneeling in front of him, one knee in between his slumped form, her hands faintly glowing. When she finally saw that he was awake, she breathed out a sigh of relief.

Then she smiled at him, so brilliantly, that he could only stare at her in silence.

"You're okay. Thank Kami you're okay. Your stomach was still injured. I didn't know what I would do if—"

She then stopped, as if remembering herself. Sakura's expression closed, her eyes becoming uncertain again, before she made a move to distance herself.

He didn't let her.

Without even thinking of what he was doing, Sasuke leaned forward, in his sitting position, putting his hands on her arms and pulling her towards him. Her body slid naturally, almost as if it was waiting for such action. He put his mouth on hers, and let the kiss linger, grow.

She responded, and simply, oh-so-simply melted in his arms.

It shouldn't have tasted so sweet. Not when it was fast, and frantic, and bordering on madness that he couldn't quite control. Her hands came up to fist in his chest, slowly opening, palms resting. Said palms slid up to his shoulders, as if trying to steady herself. Her response was slow, but steady—inciting a deep lust in him, but with the lust, something else. Still not giving it a thought (because really, he couldn't even think anymore, with the way she was moving against him), he nipped her lower lip, his tongue tasting every bit there was to taste of her.

So sweet. All of her tasted so sweet.

It was enough to drive him crazy.

When a sound emitted from her throat, and when she pressed herself closer to his heat, it was all he could do not to take her, right then and there without thought to consequences. He didn't want it that way—not anymore. Slowly, with all the willpower left in him, he nipped her lip one more time, eliciting another soft moan.

Then he stopped kissing her altogether.

There was silence, as they breathed each other for a moment—an intimacy that was never there before, because both of them had never given enough time for such a simple act.

Sakura lifted her head, staring at him with dazed eyes. Something flickered in them, before they disappeared, and she steadied herself. She disentangled from him, and backed away, standing up as she did so.

He'd expected that, somewhat.

What he didn't expect was what she did next.

She fled.


Her resistance still full, still intact, Sakura ran away, intending to forget everything, to move forward and not let him affect her anymore. He wanted her, that much was obvious.

She needed more than that.

So she fled, and let her footsteps take her away.

She ended up stopping in the middle of the Uchiha compound. Staring.

And what she saw melted all resistance there was.


He ended up stopping on the porch of his house, and looking at the sight that was in front of him. There she was, staring at the grave of his parents, which were now filled with flowers and green grass—after six months, he had finally gotten the will to move out of his apartment, and see to his real home. To finally have the courage to step into it.

It had been worth it.

A long step, and a painful one—but it had been worth it.

There were only a few things Sasuke wanted in life, he knew that now. Redemption for his family had been one, long, long ago. Peace of mind, too, after that was over. Naruto's respect—though this, he would never admit, no matter what—was yet another.

And one woman. The woman standing in the middle of his home right now, staring at his family's graveyard with something akin to sadness and wonder in her eyes. And love. Again, just like before, so much love that he could feel it from this far away. It was so real, so solid.


She turned her head to his, that love extending.

"It's beautiful," she whispered, wistfully.

It took all of his willpower not to jump at the jolt in his stomach, and to say that no, she was the beautiful one. He wasn't a poet—he would never be, he knew that.

"I should really go," she said. Quietly now.

And then he was moving forward, until he stood right in front of her.

"I have a proposition."


"I'll heal you later again if it's that—"

"I need you to get rid of the fangirls. Again."

Something flickered in her green eyes once more, before she steadied it, and looked at him determinedly. The fire in her eyes started, an energy that brought spark, brought more life to it.

It took him a moment to realize that they were filled with a low, quiet sort of fury.

"No," she said, almost defiantly.


"I said no," she snapped. A finger poked his chest, harshly. His face didn't show how her brutal strength made it itch. "I am not going to play that game anymore. I thought you've learned how pointless it all is by now."

"It's not pointless."

She wasn't listening to him. The fury had built in her eyes now, as she stepped closer and faced him head on.

"That's because you get to have lots of sex! And what do I get?"

He couldn't help his blunt reply. Not really.


An answer which had her gaping in disbelief at him, before furiously turning on him again.

"Oh, right. You think you're everything. You think I'm in love with you or something. How many days do you even have in mind? Another nine or eight days to satisfy your sexual cravings? To fulfill your sexual fantasies? To make the fangirls act all jealous and—"

"I was thinking 50 years."

"—and stupid and vengeful and—what?"

Her mouth opened, closed. Then opened again—though no sound came out.

"Or longer, if you like," he said, voice steady.


Her mouth closed once more. Opened.

"I—if you think that joke is going to sweep me off my feet—" she managed, before he cut her off, with the call of her name.


"—I mean, I get that there could be fangirls listening right now, which is why you probably pulled this stunt, but I'm not playing anymore—"


"—I don't want this—I don't want games—not anymore—" Her breath hitched. The anger vanished, as the hurt came in her eyes, before she ruthlessly banked that away. She was good at that now, he noticed. But he already saw it—and unable to help himself (because whether he denied it or not, he was already always so receptive when it came to her), he pulled her to him.

"Shut up, Sakura."

And for the third time that day, he kissed her once more, with the hunger and the thirst he had been feeling for a long, long time. Six months now.

Or maybe it was longer, and he was just too stupid to realize it before.

Imagine that. Uchiha Sasuke, stupid. It was ironic, really.

At least he learned his lesson now.


The tenderness in his kiss left her staggered, and unable to move.

What was more, the feelings in his kiss had her finally realizing that no, he hadn't been joking.

And he was slowly, ever so slowly heating her up.

His lips moved away from her mouth for a moment, to touch her eyelids—first the left, lingering, before it shifted to the right. She became aware that her eyelids were moist, though she refused to believe that came from crying. Stubbornly (and slightly dazed again), Sakura pulled away a bit and wiped her eyes, making sure they were dry and steady.

Then she gave him a very determined stare.

"You have to be my friend," she said. "It can't be all about sex."


"It can't, Sasuke. Seriously."

There was something to be said about an Uchiha who looked serious for one second—and was suddenly smirking the next. It was his typical smirk—dark, lazy, mysterious.

And sexy. So sexy, that she had to take a tiny step back (really, really subtly) before she actually ended up jumping him (inner Sakura was already screaming at her to do so). She cleared her throat.

He stalked closer.

"Seriously. We need to set boundaries. You can't be an asshole all the time. And—and don't expect me to bow to your every mood, because I won't. It's not right and I have feelings too and—and—would you please not come any closer?"

He didn't listen to her, of course. Instead, because of all the little steps of her backing away and him coming closer, she suddenly found her back on something rough, and what could only be the bark of a tree. Then his warmth was in front of her—but he wasn't staring at her now.

He was looking at the tree, his hands fisting.

It didn't take her long to figure out that he was remembering what he had done to her months ago, when he had thought she had destroyed his one reminder of his long-gone loved ones. Her heart stopped, as he touched her neck, as gently as he could. Then he made a move to back away—almost as if afraid of hurting her again.

The gesture was so blunt, so righteous. So unreadable.

And so, so Sasuke.

Her heart stumbled.

This time, it was her who pulled him closer, framing his face in her hands, willing him to look at her now. He did. There was a pause, before she smiled sadly, and let her hands drop.

"This is a mess," she murmured. "I might not have babies and be the perfect housewife and I know that's what you want—"

"I don't care."

"But it's what you want—"

"I want you."

She stopped, and looked at him. He was looking at her patiently again, his hands settling on her waist.

"Not just now, Sakura."

Her heart fell.

They were a mess, really. Individually, they were. Together…she couldn't even comprehend how much. She had her issues, and he definitely had hers. It wasn't the smartest choice, being with him like this, when she should have just moved on, and let him pick the most likely candidate for his future, to bear his new clan.

But maybe it was time to stop overanalyzing things. Maybe it was time to be with him.

"Okay. Okay," she said softly. "We'll make it work."


Then she could only say a few more things as he picked her up, and let her legs settle on his waist, and let her arms wrap around his, just as his were around hers as he led her back into his house.

His home.


A pause.

"I love you."


And there was nothing more to say, really. Nothing at all.

So instead, Sakura settled her head on his neck, and let herself breathe in his scent, and let the silence of the moment wash over her. Consume her. Fill her.

"I love you, too, Sasuke."


"I knew it! I knew my injury had a purpose in life—it brought the two of you together! TEME! SAKURA-CHAN! I can't believe it—FINALLY! After all that pent-up frustration and wanting—he finally stopped his idiocy and jumped you! Ahaha, don't bother hiding it—I'm a fox, I know what sex smells like! I also know what lust smells like, and you obviously can't wait to jump her again—just like Suigetsu here obviously can't wait to jump Karin-chan! I know he denies it, but I'm a smart, perceptive guy! Ahaha, it's okay, Sharkfreak, Karin-chan wants you too, even if she's dating Dogboy! Anyway, back to the teme and his obvious horny-bastard-issues—hey, wait! Hey, teme! Where are you going? Don't bring Sakura-chan with you! Ino-chan and Sakura-chan still have that naked bet to settle and Ino-chan will be naked and—TEME, STOP BEING HORNY AND COME BACK HERE! I'M SUPPOSED TO MAKE BABIES FIRST BECAUSE HINATA-CHAN AND I GOT TOGETHER AHEAD OF YOU! DON'T RUIN EVERYTHING! I'M SUPPOSED TO GET MARRIED AND MAKE BABIES FIRST!"


Juugo eyed Naruto yelling at the top of his lungs in his hospital bed, where he was covered in too-plenty bandages that didn't seem to deter him at all. Beside him sat a blushing Hinata. Beside Hinata stood a flushing Ino, and a slightly glaring Shikamaru. Across them, on the other side of the bed, was an uncomfortable Karin—and an equally uncomfortable Suigetsu (who was also glaring at Naruto), who had jumped practically four feet away from the redhead. In front of Naruto was Kiba—who was alternately glaring at both Naruto and Suigetsu. Leaning on the wall on the farthest side were Kakashi and Saione looking up from his orange book in interest, the other beaming in utmost (although still quite blank) satisfaction.

Juugo smiled, and settled more comfortably into his plump, wide visitor's chair.

Life was good.




a/n: Oh, boy. I'm gonna miss this story. I hope the ending was good enough. I wrote half of it a month ago, but then my laptop got a virus and I wasn't able to save around 20% of the files and...this was one of them. So I had to rewrite it. I liked the first version better, but what the heck. Heh. I still have the stupid writer's block, and it took me nearly 24 hours to get this ending done. But I'm glad it's done. I'm sad that this story's ending, but glad too, that I actually got to finish it. :)

P.S. Happy reading! Reviews = love. Share some love, guys? :p
P.P.S. This will probably be my last update for a while, as I'm leaving this May 8 to go review for my Board exams (it's a must for my course, or else I won't get a license). It's gonna last 6 months, so I can't update during that time - I have to concentrate on my studying, you see. Oh, God - it's making me nervous, to be honest. Gah. Wish me luck guys. Heh. Don't worry, though - I'll update again when it's all over (pass or fail).
P.P.P.S. Seriously...thanks, guys. You all made making this story that much more worthwhile. :)