Author's Note: I just wanted you all to know that I'm still alive

Author's Note: I just wanted you all to know that I'm still alive! Yeah, I know I should be shanked for the length of my absence, but it could not be helped. But here is a nice little AU drabble to fill the gap. I swear the next chapter of The Weak's End is coming very, very soon, and then the others quickly after it. I am now on summer break (also) and even though I'll be working here soon, I will have the time to write. Confetti, right? Right? Aww, c'mon, please? Okay, enough groveling. Please enjoy this and let me know what you think.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, the characters, so on and so forth.

Dedication: This one is for all of those chicks who are pierced, tattooed and one of the guys. I'm in those ranks too, and we should be proud.

It was summer break again, and although Sakura had been home for a few days now, she was still completely unable to settle down. School was fast paced, especially in the medical field. There was always something new to memorize, another treatment to explore and as a second-year intern in the hospital on top of everything, doubling one's shift was routine. She told herself that she shouldn't have taken the break, that she could still find use for her time there in the city, but her mother pleaded for some time with her daughter five hundred miles away. So Sakura packed her bags and shipped herself home despite internal protesting.

The first few days were a blur of catching up and the reiteration of family dramas that the pink-haired girl had long forgotten, and wished it would have stayed that way. Though, thankfully, she put those things to the back of her mind almost immediately. Once the weekend went by and her parents returned to work, Sakura found herself slipping back into the habits of the previous summer which included an hour of cereal, coffee and Frasier, followed by chores. Everything was back to normal for the most part, which included a familiar unease.

Sakura wasn't exactly the poster child for her field. She was far from conservative with her bright pink locks, black t-shirts and a personality to match. A tomboy from the get-go, she was never one for frilly things, so unlike her mother. She loved body art and was making a piece out of her own skin from age sixteen. So now, here at twenty and a medical student to boot, it wasn't too surprising that her days were not filled with airy outings with members of the opposite sex. Far from it, really. She didn't have the time, or so the girl told herself, but really, she knew the truth.

So instead, Sakura filled the man-shaped gap in her life with romance this or that, be it movies, books and the like. Sure, she was rough and tumble – you had to be when you grew up with male cousins and their friends like she did – but that didn't mean she wasn't a chump for all that lovey-dovey crap. Part of her hated herself for it, but the other part said screw the pride and replaced her nose in a book she already read once before.

The fourth night home, still restless as ever, Sakura sank down in a worn couch over at her grandmother's where she was staying temporarily, her parents' right next door. It was rolling on eleven at night and the rose-locked woman was still wide awake, her mind rambling on as it normally would, never ceasing. With a sigh, she dragged out her old crappy laptop, hoping that it would decide to work for once, and loaded it up. About five minutes later, Notepad was on her screen and she began to type her thoughts.

I always cry from my right eye first. I'm not sure what it is, but my right side just must be more compassionate than the left (as if they had a choice.)

She always typed as if she were talking to someone, starting up a conversation, or else in the middle of one.

I just finished watching one of those sappy love movies, you know, the ones they rerun on Elovethat I can only watch at my folk's house. The main dude was a chain smoker, drank and I think they had a drug scene but it was very subtle. But besides the fact that I abhor all of that to no end, I found myself longing for someone just like him throughout the entire damn movie.

Then again, what major character of anything romance related didn't Sakura long for? It was a trap, really, and the writers of such stories knew it.

It was because he knew what he was talking about, knew the main chick (which we all put ourselves as most of the time, even though she is never like us - much too skinny) and that genuine-ness, which should be a word but probably isn't, is worth falling for. We all want men who get us, right? Yes, I see you rolling your eyes in expression of the inevitable and undeniable improbability of it all, but you know it's true. We love the knowledge! But it won't come around. Ah, well, such is the way of things.

Sakura finished that sentence with a sigh and the shake of her head. This movie she had just watched had the theme of best friends falling for each other. Ironically enough, that was somewhat the story of her life, although it was always one-sided. One stoic face came to mind and the medic allowed it to linger for a moment as she typed her next bit of rambling.

He said in the movie, oh so knowingly, that the chick whose name I cannot recall even though I was subjected to it for the last two hours wasn't dressing like herself. When she dressed up, she looked like a doily.

An infectious grin spread over the girl's lips in recollection. The few times she put on a skirt, and Sakura admitted it wasn't very often, she reminisced the way her male friends' eyebrows shot up in surprise, but then she opened her mouth and things went back to normal. Keys clicked.

My sharp burst of laughter was soon followed by more intent watching and eventually, as I was putting my shoes on to walk outside, I got to thinking. Thus the journal, right? (Well, it would have gone on paper were it not for the fact that I left my notebook next door and have no desire to put my boots on again.) Anyway -and ironically the shoes have something to do with this- I have kept a ring, more specifically, one of those binding rings you hold note cards together at the corner with, in my right shoe for years now. It's like shoe piercing. I also wear this black ribbon, looped three times, around my wrist. I don't know why; there's no definite reason for it.

Actually, it was hardly a ribbon, but more of a flat draw-string she pulled from the hem of her pant leg one day. It looked cool, so on it went.

I've tried to create a time in my head for when I would finally take it off, but have failed 'cause everything I came up with sounded stupid. It's been me and the ribbon for, eh, four years now? Yeah, that sounds about right. Maybe I'll take it off when I'm finally in love. The white tan line left behind will represent the purity of going into a relationship.

Her internal voice went up a few octaves as she wrote this, more in mocking than anything else.

Pssh, bull crap. (I just unwillingly censored myself...) This needs to stop before I make myself puke up Rainbow Bright. Ya know, before she was a logo for raver-stoners. I digress.

There was a moment's pause as Sakura drummed her fingers lightly on the laptop, the other hand fiddling with the conch piercing in her right ear.

I just came to a realization, still based on appearance and crap like that, that my piercings and tattoos add up to an equal number, five of each, and I hate symmetry. We all know what that means! Then there are six things on the left and four on the right, the horrors of even numbers. So, if I get something new on one side, that will fix it, but the other will still be even, so an addition will be made. And then they will add up again, and we can't have that. Vicious cycle, really. Oh well, I kind of like it that way. It gives me something to look forward to, even if it is another hole in my head. Maybe one day I'll be skilled enough to drill them in myself.

She couldn't help the bitterness of that last statement. Even though she secretly aspired to do tattoo art one day, you know, as a side job, there was something about body art that turned people off. Of course, there were people out in the world that deserve the labels placed upon them, but Sakura didn't consider herself one of them. We're just too different… those words echoed in her mind every so often. They still stung, even though it had been over a year since her love interest had turned her down with them. Gritting her teeth, the woman tapped away again.

All the more reason for someone to come along and tell me who and what I am, right? By literally displaying the symbols of my life on my skin and pointing out the obvious, maybe someone will get it. Either that or they will jump to more conclusions. Sometimes I wish I could bring myself to articulate a bit better. In speech, in body language, in the turn of my mouth and the way I stare at a person when they speak instead of nodding ridiculously like a bobble-head. They think I'm not listening then, even though I'm looking directly at them. Whatever, it shouldn't matter.

Yeah, she would just brush this off again. Over and over these things would come back to haunt her thoughts. Maybe if she were like others, they would understand and want to be around her more. It wasn't like she was lacking in friends, no, far from it. It was just that even though she was well loved and cared for, there was still something missing and it seemed that space was growing almost daily. Sakura's shoulders slumped.

I have these thoughts every so often, ya know, about changing. I told my mom my dilemma of the men in my life and how I'm always either: A) the best friend B) substitute mother or C) just one of the guys, though usually a combination there of which with one dominant feature. Period. That's it. It would be a beautiful thing if only there was one exception to the rule. Just one, I promise, I won't get greedy.

She imaged his arms around her waist as they BSed with their friends. She pictured the happiness they would feel and at that point, no one else would matter and she wouldn't have to think like this again. It would be so warm…

The first thing she suggested is that I change my clothes. Add little "feminine" touches. She could show me a five-minute make-up routine. I guess this is what I expected the answer to be, and isn't it always? Change your face, hair and clothes a little. Well, no one is touching my hair, but it's so obvious to go after everything else. I feel like one of those classic girls who is all scruffy, someone helps her out, she becomes stunning (insert gagging spoon here, if you will) and viola, men.

Geez, how many times had Ino suggested the same darn thing? She could play dress up with her best friend, they would go out to the club and it would be Cinderella all over again! Simple, right? Yeah, okay.

Except I know that's not how it will happen for me. I'm not one of those girls. And even if I prettied myself up every once in a while, it would only be temporary. I would still be rough on the inside, the way I act, my outlook on things, me on a friggen regular day. I don't want a temporary me to find someone only to have him discover that it's just an age-old act and he was another sucker. Haha, loser. The reality of things is harsh, and I'm always going to be this way. The tattoos and the piercings and the way I slouch when I'm sitting aren't going away. I built myself from the ground up, I know, the foundations were placed by my metaphorical hands, although some may say otherwise. I'm like...a metal biker bar that serves mocha and limeade. I expect my hands to be like sandpaper by the end of my lifetime because I use them, and those calluses are well earned. Maybe someone will be able to get that.

Mentally, Sakura followed that comment with a curse at the injustice of it all. That place in her chest, not near the heart but a bit lower, right over the diaphragm, tightened all too familiarly. The last words were pounded out on the keyboard.

And they won't need the blush and mascara to realize it.

With frustration squeezing her jaw shut, she saved the file as J1 and shut the old computer down, placing it on the floor and falling back onto the couch. Subconsciously crossing her arms over her lower abdomen, magenta lashes lowered as a scowl worked its way over her face. Honestly, she didn't know what it would take to find someone, having given up on the one man she knew she wanted more than anyone. She had hoped to find someone else, someone that could make her feel the same way in college, figuring getting away from her home town the best course of action. But she was just as alone there. I think I really need to let this go if I'm ever going to keep my sanity.

The moment those words crossed her mind, she heard the front porch screen door open and wheeze before closing again. A second later, there was a gentle rap on her front door. Glancing over at the digital clock beside her on a lamp stand, the neon numbers read 11:54. Who the hell..?

With a grunt, the medic rolled off the couch with a little less grace than she would have preferred and stumbled to the door. Opening it with a jerk - the wooden frame tended to stick - her neck craned upward some to stare into the ebony gaze of her near best friend.

"Hey," he said casually, as if it weren't the middle of the night.

Sakura's heart jumped before she swallowed it down and put on a questioning expression, "What can I do for ya, Sasuke?"

"I wanted to talk, can I come in?"

"I guess. What's on your mind?" if only he knew what was on hers.

"This chick I know," and then there was this look he slid her.

Oh God, maybe there's hope in the world after all.