C a u g h t I n T h e


In her personal opinion, there was something severely fishy about her mysterious next-door-neighbor. She had gathered several theories about him – and was quite certain that he was either a serial killer, insane, or the tooth fairy.

Ino, on the other hand, found him to be the most delicious thing since cheesecake. It was true that from what Sakura had seen, he was an undeniably attractive person – with a face that seemed more befitting inside of a painting next to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, bottomless storm clouds for eyes, and a body that would surely be blinding if it wasn't hidden under modest clothing and behind, most of the time, a door. And if she had not more common sense, Sakura might have loomed outside in the hallway with Ino, hoping to steal a glimpse of him venturing out of his apartment and hoping to strike up a conversation.

His bizarre behavior, however, did an effective job of repelling her. Although he had been residing in the same apartment since before she had moved in next to him, she seldom saw him leave, and when she did, never heard him speak, even when she attempted a neighborly greeting. There was only one person who she frequently witnessed come and go in and out of his apartment, a loud but friendly blond whose name she thought started with an "N," who was always ushered into the apartment by her neighbor before Sakura had the chance to hold a conversation with him. His groceries were delivered, he never ordered in, and as far as she knew, he was neither employed or in school – which brought up the question of how he paid his rent, another mystery that Sakura secretly wished to unfold.

Little did she know, the story surrounding Uchiha Sasuke was more complex and dramatic than she ever could have imagined, and she was just about to get thrown into the middle of it.

C h a p t e r (o1)

One of few, Sakura was a morning person. Before her roommates had roused from their beds, she was already up and capable of performing daily tasks such as making breakfast without doing ditsy things like forgetting to remove the egg from the shell before adding it to the pancake batter, something that Ino had done on several occasions. Hinata was not quite so brainless in the early hours of the day to do such a thing, but she was still far from functioning at her best after she awoke, unlike Sakura , who found herself to be liveliest and the beginning of the day. Ino claimed such feats were alien. Hinata was envious.

After throwing the omelet into the skillet and double checking whether or not she was presentable, the next thing on Sakura's morning routine was to wake up Ino, as her alarm clock had, as always, failed to do so. Summoning the blond from her deep sleep back into the land of the living was not an easy task, save for those who knew the trick to doing it. Sakura tip-toed into the room Ino slept in, which was darkened by black-out blinds, crept next to her roommate's bed, and leaned over the lump hidden under her comforter. She wet her finger in her mouth, and promptly stuck it in Ino's ear. "Alien worm babies are crawling into your brain..." She whispered, giving her finger a good wiggle.

There was an ear-shattering scream as Ino lunged into the upright position, swatting at the imaginary alien worm babies that were allegedly burrowing through her skull. Sakura chuckled, causing Ino's eyes to shoot towards her and narrow into a glare. "Can't you wake me up any other way...?" She snarled, wiping furiously at the sleep crusted into her eyelashes. In the bedroom over, Sakura could hear Hinata rustling, which meant that as planned, Ino's scream had been an effective wake-up call.

"No." Sakura replied. "I'm afraid I don't have the necessary firepower to do so." And then, realizing that her pancake was probably done, and that pillow that Ino was picking up was probably about to be tossed at her head, Sakura made her leave, feeling the pillow breeze by her ear and impact the wall beside her head as she scurried out of the bedroom. She crossed Hinata on her way to the bathroom, carrying a towel and lavender shampoo, and gave her a hearty greeting. Hinata, still looking disheveled and half-asleep, muttered and groggy "Good Morning" in reply.

She reached the kitchen just in time to flip over the omelet, satisfied to find it cooked to perfection on the one side. Next she busted the concentrated orange juice out of the freezer and left it to thaw on the counter before attempting to squeeze it into the juice jug. It was tradition in the apartment for Sakura to make breakfast for the three of them, and she prepared anything from french toast with bacon or sausage and fruit salad to setting cereal out on the table, depending on the mood she was in and how much money they had to spare on the food budget. Today she was feeling only somewhat chef-like, so she was making omelets from powdered eggs and filling them with whatever she could find in the fridge that seemed edible.

By the time that both Hinata and Ino had run through the shower, breakfast was ready and set out on the table. Ino was the last to seat herself, plopping into her designated chair at the table and pulling her plate towards her, shoving a bite into her mouth and chewing loudly. "You guysh used u' the las of thuh hod wodder." She said with her mouth full, swallowing after she had finished talking and washing it down with a gulp of orange juice. "Again."

Hinata bowed her head close to her plate and muttered a barely audible apology. "Maybe if you got up a little earlier, you might be able to get through the shower before us and that wouldn't be a problem." Sakura said as she cleaned the last bit of fluffy egg off her plate and drank the last drop of juice out of her cup, picking up her dishes and utensils and giving them a quick rinse in the sink before setting them in the dishwasher.

"No, it wouldn't be a problem if you didn't take such long showers, Sakura." Ino responded in a very matter-of-fact way, reaching across the table and snatching the salt and pepper away from Hinata after she had finished using them and sprinkling a good layer on top of her breakfast. "What do you do in there? Shave your head bald and then grow your hair back?"

"Actually, no. I'm too busy pulling your hair globs out of the drain to do that. Early bird gets the worm, Ino. I have plenty of time to take long, enjoyable showers in the morning. Why shouldn't I?" After she had finished clearing her own dishes, she moved on to removing those the others were finished with. She swept Hinata's empty plate out from under her and balanced the empty juice glass on top of it, turning next to Ino, who allowed Sakura to take her dirty dishes with a smug smile on her face. Sakura half expected a comment about maid service, and was preparing a witty comeback. Unfortunately, she and Ino weren't thinking quite in sync that morning.

"You don't have quite as much time as you think you do, though." Ino finally stated, her face breaking into a wicked grin. It was the type of smile she wore when she had done something that Sakura could excusably kill her for. "What time is it?"

Sakura looked at her watch, and then, catching on, at the clock on the wall. Her face paled several shades. "Ino..." Sakura growled, her expression turning deadly as her head turned stiffly to face the woman who was leaning on the back two legs of her chair, cackling mirthfully. Sakura's murderous disposition only lasted temporarily, until the panic settled in, and then she grew hopelessly frantic. "Do you have any idea what you've done! I'm going to be late! I can't be late! Do you know what happens if I'm late?"

"Relax, Sakura." Ino replied, her chair returning to all fours with a loud clatter. "You're not going to be late. I only set it back ten minutes."

"Ten minutes is the difference between pass or fail!" Sakura shrieked in hysterics. She was already going about, trying to locate all of her necessities for the day in a flurry. She found her purse strung over the back of her chair and her book bag on the sofa where she had left it the previous night after her study session. "I don't have time for this!" She had one arm in one sleeve of her sweater, and was attempting to pull the other one through while simultaneously trying to slip on her shoes. There was a good deal of awkward twisting and jumping involved. "I'll slaughter you later!" She yelled as she rushed out the door and slammed it behind her.

Sakura usually gave herself a good twenty minutes of time to walk to the bus stop, and usually arrived a minute or two early. And seeing as she had been planning to leave just as soon as she finished cleaning up breakfast, she was running seriously late. The next bus wouldn't leave for an additional half an hour, and if she missed the first bus, she would be late for her class. The doors closed at the precise moment that it began, and missing a single class of the course was something that very few risked. It was education suicide.

Sakura had worked very hard to get into one of the most prestigious medical schools in the country, and was fortunate enough to be taught under the woman that she idolized. Tsunade was hailed as the owner of the most innovative medical mind in Japan, and although the course she taught was very difficult, with a pass rate of only fifteen percent, Sakura had never once wished for someone else as her professor. She had spent a great many years dreaming of even so much as shaking hands with Tsunade, and to study under her was a fantasy come true.

She tore into the elevator and tapped her feet impatiently as she waited for it to reach the bottom floor. As soon as the floor beneath her feet swayed into place, she was at the door and ready to pounce as soon as it cracked open. She sprinted across the lobby, out the front doors, and down the steps that led to the pavement. Being a crowded street in Tokyo, she had to maneuver he way through the people as she weaved in an out of the sea of bodies that were crammed onto the sidewalk and spilling out onto the road. She pushed her way through, apologizing to every person she brushed past. "I'm sorry. Excuse me. Sorry."

She ran across the street and dodged oncoming traffic, met by a chorus of honks and yells of people who stuck their heads out of their car windows. She apologized some more as she crawled over a taxi that had screeched to a stop in front of her, launching herself off the hood and darting into the entrance of the station. She rummaged through her purse for her bus pass, and quickly hurtled over the gate, finding as she approached her bus that the doors were already closing. She took the opportunity to tap into the skills she had build up during track and field club in high school, and managed to squeeze herself through before they sealed shut.

She was pressed in between two people who glanced at her irritatedly and shuffled the other direction. She attempted to step around them, nearly losing her balance in the process and brushing roughly through them. One scowled. "Sorry. Excuse me. Sorry." She grabbed onto one of the handles that dangled from the roof of the aisle, let out a relieved sigh, and waited for her bus to reach its stop.

She came to realize that she hadn't much luck today, however, when the bus reached its stop and she realized that it wasn't her bus. She came off at a stop ten blocks away from her own, and there was a mere thirty minutes remaining until the doors were locked and her career was doomed. She let out a loud groan before readjusting her book bag and purse and starting off again. She was sweaty, out of breath, and tired – but she sprinted into the university just in the nick of time, passing through the still open doors to her classroom to meet Tsunade up on her way to lock them.

"Ms. Haruno." She greeted stiffly. "Cutting it a little close, aren't we?"

"It's been an interesting morning, professor." She replied politely, shifting her sweater back over her shoulder. Her breathing had almost returned to normal, and she straightened herself up and forced a smile. She was frightened to see the condition that her hair was in. She was fairly certain there were some twigs stuck in it due to the shortcut she had taken through the park.

"I can see that." She said, looking Sakura up and down before dismissing her with a wave of her hand. "Well then, take your seat. Good heavens, child. You look like you've just run a marathon."

She eagerly did as told, bending down into her desk and splaying across it, letting out a deep, exhausted exhale. She made a mental note to kill Ino in the slowest, most painful way possible later on that day.

The lesson flew by, and Sakura enjoyed it thoroughly, filling page after page with neatly organized notes. The bell rang, and a silent, grateful moan issued from the students who stood up from their desks and began to file out of the classroom. Sakura was taking her time, placing her books back in their appropriate places in her bag and going over the important parts of the lesson again in her head, drilling vital facts into her memory. The professor caught her off guard, beckoning her forwards with a finger. "Could you stay and speak with me for a moment please, Sakura?"

Sakura nodded, apprehensive, and hesitantly approached Tsunade's desk at the front of the classroom. Tsunade's desk looked somewhat like Sakura's room – messy. There were few patches of viewable cherry wood beneath stacks of paper and coffee mugs filled with pens and liquid that didn't smell a thing like coffee. The only things that Sakura bothered keeping orderly were those that were related to her school work, which she took very seriously. She was a slob through and through, and found it quite flattering that she obviously shared this trait with her teacher. Tsunade, after removing a thick binder from her seat, sat down and faced Sakura with her chin rested against her hands. "You were a tad bit tardy this morning, Sakura." She commented. Sakura couldn't identify the tone of her voice – whether it was disappointment or amusement. She nodded. "You are aware what would have happened should you have been, say, thirty seconds later?" She nodded again and her throat tightened.

"You're a very bright girl, Sakura." Her professor said. Sakura could feel her chest swell with pride. "You have a great deal of potential. I'd hate to see you waste it. I expect great things from you, girl."

Now she was fairly certain that she was dreaming. Not only was it odd that her day had taken such an unfortunate turn of events, but now her role model was giving her possibly the largest and most significant comment that she had received in her life. She felt a little dizzy with elation. Her face broke into a shaky smile. "T-thank you, professor. I hope I come to meet your expectations."

Tsunade smirked behind her hands. "Well, get going. I'm probably keeping you from something. Shoo, shoo."

Sakura did not need to be told twice.


"Do you know what she said? She said I had potential. The Tsunade said that I had potential. She said she expected great things from me. Not just things, great things." The young pink-haired woman sighed dreamily, looking at the bartender, her friend, from across the counter. Tenten shoved the dishrag inside of a dirty beer mug and sloshed it around, nodding and pretending to be interested. "I can now die in peace."

"You sound like you're in love with her." Tenten said, setting the mug in her hand upside down on a stack of others and reaching for the next dirty one within reach. Tenten made for a good bartender. She was friendly, dealt well with drunks, and new a few neat mixing tricks. Sakura enjoyed having someone to talk with at work.

"So maybe I am in love." Sakura joked sarcastically, cupping her hands together and pressing them dramatically to her chest, feigning a swoon. "Alright! I admit it! I am in love with... medical practice!"

Tenten rolled her eyes at the scene that Sakura mockingly acted out in front of her, only paying mind to her occasionally, while her primary focus was on the table corner. "Uh-oh." She stated, setting down the glass she was working on and waving at Sakura to grab her attention. "Looks like trouble at table two." Tenten had thought up inventive slogans for all the tables. (Omen at table one, threat at table three, forecast at table four...) "Better get to it."

Sakura, unlike her coworker, was not a bartender. She was a bouncer.

When she had applied for the job, the manager gave her the type of look that accused her of insanity, scoffed, and asked in the most polite way he was capable of if she was joking. After assuring him that she was not, which required a great deal of time and effort, he agreed to hire her, assuming that a day or two on the job would bring her to her senses and send her elsewhere to look for employment. Her first night at work, she proved her competence and suitability for the job. She forcefully removed four angry, drunken men from the bar. All at once. With the use of only two fingers.

Seeing as large men had only ever taken on the job, the uniform practically drowned her under its heavy folds of cloth. She used numerous belts and clips to hold the uniform securely to her body, but even after she had cuffed the pant legs four times over they dragged on the floor and the collar slipped over her shoulders. The overall effect of which was far from intimidating, so when she approached the man hovering around table two, seemingly attempting to pick up one of the three girls seated there, and flashed him her name tag, he only laughed.

"Don't do it, man! She'll kill you! She's the Iron Fist of Death! She'll disfigure you with her eyes! She'll disembowel you with her mind!" One of the regulars shouted from the next table over. Sakura ignored the nickname, though she was secretly pleased they had taken to calling her that. She was also secretly pleased that they thought she could disembowel people with her mind. She halted a few feet from him and he staggered, hiccuping and brandishing his half-empty mug of beer dangerously. Foam sloshed over the edges. He winked at her.

"Sir, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave." She said calmly, but assertively. His acquaintances pleaded with him to listen to her, but he either couldn't hear them, or was too drunk to care. He smirked unnervingly.

"And I'm afraid that I'm not leaving unless you're coming with me, beautiful." He replied, his speech slurred. Her lip twitched.

"Sir, we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way."

"Oh, I'll do it hard, alright. I'll do it hard all night. Come with me, sweet cheeks. I'll show you a real good time." From the corner of her eye, Sakura could see Tenten shake her head and reach below the counter to pull out the wet wipes she would use to clean up the blood. She knew the capacity of Sakura's temper too well. The group of women whom he had been trying to hit on before looked somewhat relieved, and watched nervously as he teetered towards them. They scooted out of the path he would take should he tip over.

"Let me rephrase this. You can leave with your balls still intact, or you can leave with them shoved up your nostrils." She seethed, taking a threatening step in his direction. She did not succeed in making him uncomfortable with her proximity, quite the opposite. He took a step forwards to match hers until he was too close for her likes, and reached around her and grabbed her backside.

"I'll tell you where I want you to shove my--"

He was sporting a black eye, a fat lip, and a broken nose as she tossed him out the door, his body twisted up like a pretzel. She slammed the door and left him to untangle himself, if possible. She heaved a sigh and turned to face the many heads turned her way, staring at her with mortified expressions. "ALRIGHT! WHOSE NEXT??" She bellowed. The bar seemed slightly less crowded for the remainder of the night.

It wasn't the best of jobs. Sakura couldn't stand the stench of alcohol or the temperament of drunks. But if efficiently helped pay rent and tuition without requiring long hours of work or sleepless nights, and so she was thankful that she had landed it. The bar was close to her apartment and she could easily walk back and forth, she got a discount for her and her friends, and beating up people helped with her anger management issues. For instance, she was no longer plotting to skin Ino alive, throw her in a tub of lemon juice, and then drop a plugged-in toaster on her lap. Now she was only planning to shave off one of her eyebrows while she slept.

The few brave costumers that remained slowly trickled out as it came to closing time. Sakura lingered afterwards and waited for Tenten to finish cleanup duties. She stacked the last clean cup with a grateful sigh and set down her dishtowel, making a motion towards the door and indicating to Sakura that it was time to leave. "So how is Neji finding his classes?" Sakura asked. Neji was Hinata's cousin and Tenten's boyfriend, and although Sakura and Neji weren't very close, it made for good conversation. Tenten talked about him in a way that Sakura could only hope someone would someday talk about her. It was plain for anyone to see that the two brunettes were very much in love, and Sakura envied their relationship.

Neji was studying law in hopes of becoming a prosecutor. Sakura thought that his choice job suited him frighteningly well, for Neji was a very strict and law-abiding person who had a very commanding presence about him. At first Sakura found him a little intimidating, but after seeing him with Tenten, she found nothing intimidating about him any longer. He still wasn't her ideal for a man, however. He was too antisocial, too prickly around the edges, and rarely had much to contribute to a conversation. Sakura was more attracted to lively men. She wanted him, if he was out there somewhere, to be able to make her laugh and cry. Of course, kindness and gentleness was a must. And he had to be willing to help out around the house.

"Difficult, but worthwhile." Tenten replied, wrapping her coat more tightly around her shoulders as the two women walked down the sidewalk. It was dark, the only sources of light coming from the street lamps above their heads and flashing neon signs that proudly displayed the names of the stores they belonged to. Cars whizzed past them.

"Hah." Sakura replied with a disdainful smile, kicking a pebble across the street with the toe of her shoe. "I can relate. Believe me, I can relate. I nearly missed my class this morning, did I tell you? Ino set my watch back ten minutes. And then I got on the wrong bus and ended up ten city blocks away from the university."

"Wow." Tenten said. "I'd hate to see what you have in store for her."

Sakura climbed up the stairs to the front doors of her apartment complex and waved goodbye to Tenten, who waved back before continuing on the additional few blocks to her home. It had been a long day and Sakura was tired, and she could think of nothing more she wanted than a hot bath and a mug of tea, maybe throwing a few angry words or pointy objects at Ino. She dragged herself through the lobby and into the elevator, and rested her head against the carpeted walls as she waited for the elevator to carry her to her destination. The doors made a musical 'ding' as they opened, and Sakura trudged down the hallway towards her apartment. She stopped in front of the door and reached inside her pocket to pull out her key --

Only to find that in her hurry that morning, she had left her key in the apartment. She reached inside her other pocket to pull out her cellphone with which to call Ino or Hinata, only to find that she had left her cellphone with her keys and she was good and locked out of her apartment. They had never bothered with making a spare key and hiding it somewhere clever, they had never thought there would be any need for one.

Sakura whimpered pathetically and slid down the door with her back against it, pulling her knees up to her chest. Knowing Ino, she had probably dragged Hinata off to some party or club and the two of them wouldn't be back until god-knows-when. Sakura cursed under her breath. It was a school night, too. She would have to wait and hope that her roommates returned at a reasonable hour. Even though she was a morning person, she didn't function well on little sleep.

Two hours came and went and there were still no signs of Ino or Hinata. Her frustration filled her with a sudden burst of insanity, and she pulled herself up to her feet and strutted boldly over to the door next to hers, behind which the suspicious, good-looking man who resided there was probably doing unmentionable things, and knocked loudly three times. She was just doing a quick in and out, she told herself. She'd just explain that she had locked herself out of her apartment, ask to use the phone, call Ino, and hightail it out of his apartment before he had the opportunity to plant an ax in her skull.

No one answered the door. He was in there, she knew that he was in there. He never left. She knocked again, waited, and knocked again. Her heart jumped into her throat as she heard shuffling movements behind the door. Footsteps. She was rethinking her plan and considering turning and running behind the corner, but it was too late. He opened the door.

Every time she laid eyes on his face, her breath caught in her throat. He was so astonishingly beautiful. It was otherworldly. Never before had she seen him up so close that it enabled her to see so many details of his design. His skin was flawless, completely unblemished, and his face clean-shaved. He was wearing a loosely form-fitting black dress-shirt, navy jeans, and had an untied red necktie strung over one shoulder. His piercing, midnight-black eyes looked straight into hers. Her heart stopped and restarted.

And then, for the first time in the two years they had been living next to each other, she heard him speak. "What?" He snapped. But that one word sent shivers down her spine like nothing had ever before. His voice was deep, rich, husky. It made her feel weak in the knees.

It took a minute or two of ogling him with her mouth hanging open to realize that the one word he had spoken that had sent her into such a daze required a response. "Oh." She said, snapping her mouth shut as she felt the heat rise to her cheeks. Her face turned a shade to match her hair. "I've locked myself out of my apartment. Do you mind if I use your phone to call someone?" She gulped and gave her head a slight, unnoticeable shake. No matter how attractive a man he was, she still had to keep her wits about her. He could still be a mass murderer, for all she knew.

"You do realize that it's past midnight, right?" He asked monotonously. This time she was better prepared, and although the sound of his voice caused her heart to do vigorous flip-flops in her chest, it did not have quite the effect that it had on her last time. The trick to immunizing herself to the effects of his entrancing vocal chords was to imagine him chopping of a puppy's head every word that passed his perfect lips.

"Oh, is it? I'm sorry, I must have lost track of time..." She muttered apologetically. "You don't look like you were asleep, though," she said, indicating his manner of dress, which was not quite that of someone was had been in bed moments earlier. "So no harm done, right?"

He stared at her scrutinizingly, his eyes narrowing into a suspicious sort of glare, before stepping aside and allowing her to pass into his apartment. "Fine." He grunted, turning and walking briskly back into his apartment, seating himself on the couch. Sakura instantly observed that his apartment was very expensively furnished. While purchasing furniture for her apartment, most of the things she had bought were secondhand and bargain-priced. His was modern-looking and devoid of any signs that it had been previously used. Next, she noticed its state of pristine cleanliness. Nothing seemed out of place. No dirty dishes were in plain view. No laundry strewn across the floor. "Phone's over there." He said, pointing to a phone that hung from a wall near the kitchen, the chord hanging down below it in a perfect 'U'.

"Thank you." She muttered quickly, scurrying over to it and dialing Ino's cellphone number. It rang once before her voice-mail picked up. "Hello, you've reached Yamanaka Ino! If this is some hot guy, sorry I missed your call! Leave me a message at the beep!" Sakura scowled and dialed Hinata's next. "The customer you have dialed is unavailable. Please leave your message at the tone."

She had never really considered the possibility that neither of them would have their phones turned on, and now that her last hope had been washed down drain and she was standing in a place where she had never imagined she would ever venture, she hadn't the first idea what she should do. The smartest idea would have been to thank her next-door neighbor for the use of his phone and skedaddle, but she didn't want to wait until some unknown hour for Ino and Hinata to return and unlock the door for her. "No answer." She said to her host, who was seemingly absorbed in a book that he was holding upside-down. "Do you mind if I wait a few more minutes and try again?"

"Do whatever you want." He said curtly.

She was nervous to be alone with him, she would admit. But Ino would be eternally jealous that Sakura had been inside of his house, and that was reason enough for her to be there. She sat timidly on the love seat across from him, eying him uncertainly. She could feel the beginnings of an awkward silence settling in. "So, are you in school...?" She asked, fidgeting. He closed the upside-down book and set it down on the coffee table in front of him.

"No." He said. She waited for a while to see if he would take her prompting and engage in conversation, but he said nothing else.

"Oh..." She nodded, staring blankly at his face. She hadn't seen the slightest hint of expression on it since she had knocked on his door, with maybe the exception of distrust. She tried to imagine him smiling, and found it difficult. "Well, then, do you work?" He had to come up with money somehow. Maybe he was a drug dealer.

His eyes narrowed again. "... Yes..." He replied hesitantly.

She had realized that she would need to ask a lot of questions in order to get him to talk, as he seemed to be reluctant to give away any information without cause. She continued, beginning to feel slightly like a courtroom interrogator. "I see. What do you do?" She wasn't quite sure if she was being rude, prying into his personal matters, but it was for the sake of conversation, and thus far he hadn't seemed too bothered by it.

He had been staring at the ground between his feet up until then, when his eyes snapped up to meet hers, but only briefly. They darted around shiftily. He didn't reply.

"Your job? Where do you work?" She persisted. She had always been genuinely curious, but now her desire to know intensified with her realization of the opportunity to acquire such information from him. She had never held a conversation with him before, and doubted that the chance would arise again. She would have loved to know every little detail about her secretive neighbor. She always had been investigative.

He scowled at her. "I'm unemployed."

She blinked, startled and confused, and tried to make sense of him. He could have been joking around with her, but somehow, she didn't catch the drift that he was. Every thing he said or did gave the feel that he was being deadly serious. Her neighbor was a creep. She was absolutely a hundred percent certain about that much. "B-but you just said--" She stammered.

"You're mistaken."

Yes, he was definitely possibly a drug dealer.

She decided that now was a good time to retry the phone and get a better look at his cookware, while she was at it. She decided to take a detour to the phone through the dining room and kitchen and see if she could spot any more clues that would give her an idea about the sort of person who he was, disappointed to find none. There was no mail scattered on the dining room table. No bloody knives laid out on the kitchen counter. Just as she was a few feet to reached the phone, he abruptly stood up. "STOP!" He called.

She jolted. "I-I'm only just using the phone, again, see?" She reassured. There was obviously something that he was keeping hidden, and even though she had always suspected so in the first place, she still found a confirmation of the fact disturbing. To prove her point she took another step forwards and reached out towards the phone, and then another step...

And he ran forwards and tackled Sakura, throwing her down to the ground and landing on top of her. She gasped loudly as the weight of his body impacted hers, and attempted against all futility to shove him off. So he was a rapist! Even though the concept of him taking off her clothes and doing unmoral things to her was somewhat appealing, it was also frightening. She sucked in a lungful of air, preparing a good scream, but he seemed to have noticed what she was trying to do and clamped a hand over her mouth, hissing "shh!" In her ear.

He hoisted himself up onto his knees and straddled her, one hand remaining over her mouth, and looked over his shoulder. And then, out of nowhere, he pulled a gun and shot it. At the wall.

The wall, or rather something, or rather someone hidden behind the wall, shot back. Both of the guns were silenced, and Sakura noticed finally as she had not before that his walls had been intentionally soundproofed. From a first glance, they just seemed stylish. Whoever had concealed him or herself behind the wall shot a second time, and this time only missed because Sakura's neighbor grabbed her and rolled out of the way. This time round she wound up on top of him, which unfortunately wasn't for the better. The unseen enemy came around her back and snatched her before neither she or her neighbor had time to react, pulling her to her feet and pressing the gun to her temple. She froze like a deer caught in headlights. "Drop the gun or else your girlfriend gets it, Uchiha."

"I'm not his girlfriend!" Sakura clarified, but she was still too frightened to struggle. A single slip of her captor's finger and no amount of medical knowledge could save her life. The gun pressed harder against her head. She tensed.

"Let her go. She has nothing to do with this." Her neighbor said. Sakura pleaded silently that whoever it was holding her at gunpoint would agree. She made a mental note to ask to use her other neighbor's phone next time she was locked out of her apartment, if there was a next time. She was willing to bet that there would be less chance of being shot if she did so.

"I beg to differ. She seems pretty involved, to me." The gun-wielding mad-man (who was not her neighbor) replied. "Put down your weapons, or else I'll blow her brains out all over our nice, clean carpet."

A serious thought hit her. She could die. Without ever finishing her education, landing her dream job, falling in love. She was still so young. She still had so much that she wanted to do. She could feel her eyes well up. How humiliating. She was about to cry. She pinched her eyes shut tightly together and prayed that she was dreaming. She tried to imagine away the cold feeling of the gun against her clammy head, the pinching arms of the unfamiliar man who held her, the sickening feeling of fear that gripped her heart.

She opened her eyes when she heard the clatter of her neighbor's gun falling to the ground. He held his hands up, letting out a deep, irritated sigh. She felt her captor's slack loosen, before he released her entirely and stormed past her towards her neighbor who was still on his knees, fearless expression unwavering even as the enemy pointed his gun in between her neighbor's charcoal eyes. Now he was going to die instead. He had traded in his life to spare hers. "Too easy. And here I thought you'd pose a bit more of a challenge. They said you were smart. They said you were good. This is all you have to offer? Pathetic." The enemy was dressed in black, and his back was turned to Sakura, so she couldn't see his face. He stepped closer to Sakura's neighbor, who didn't so much as blink. "Sayonara, sweethea--"

Before he had the chance to finish, Sakura delivered the most forceful kick she could muster to the back of his head. Which involved a bit of a jump, as his head was a good deal higher off the ground than hers. He crumpled instantaneously onto the carpet, a rivulet of blood running from his hairline, unconscious. She stared down at his limp body for a few stunned moments, panting and shivering uncontrollably, before she dared to redirect her gaze to her equally stupefied neighbor. Their eyes locked briefly, sharing a common lack of understanding, before Sakura made up her mind that it was time to leave.

"T-thank you for letting me use your phone." She spluttered, stumbling backwards a few steps before whirring and speed walking towards the door. "I'll be leaving now."

Her heart plummeted into her stomach when she felt a hand grip her wrist forcefully. She went rigid.

"I'm afraid I can't let you do that."