Chapter Seven

It was not long after Sasuke reentered his apartment that his phone began buzzing. He had dutifully escorted Sakura to her door, making sure she was safely inside before returning to his apartment next door; he hadn't even finished taking his shoes off yet when he felt the phone going off in his back pocket. At first he wondered if Sakura was trying to escape out a window and it had triggered a sensor—and he hoped this was not the case, as he really didn't have the energy to chase after her after all the time he'd spent trailing after her in the grocery store while she shopped with her blond friend. The shopping itself hadn't been the wearisome part—no, it had been Ino who had tried his patience, chattering his ear off while he tried to indicate as inoffensively as possible that he really wasn't all that interested. He liked women—most of them from a distance. Sasuke was a quiet person who preferred to keep to himself for the most part; it was not as though he didn't appreciate social interaction from time to time as he was human just like everyone else, but there was only so many inappropriate, unwanted come-ons an introverted individual such as himself could put up with before he began to curse his good looks. No he was not a model, or an actor, and yes he was alone and he didn't have a girlfriend but no he didn't want to have a drink or a kiss or sex. Well, perhaps those last things he might want eventually, but with the right person—he was not so undiscerning or undisciplined.

But, his train of thought digressed as he fished his phone out of his jeans and saw on the caller ID that it was Neji. He shouldn't have been remotely surprised; Hyuuga had promised him that they would be having words, after all. He debated letting it go to voice mail, even if it was perfectly reasonable for Neji to be upset. After all, the first rule of Konoha was: "don't involve civilians." Sasuke had not only involved a civilian, but one who happened to be his cousin's roommate. It was only natural that he didn't want her having any sort of connection whatsoever with their extremely dangerous business. But how was Sasuke supposed to know that Hinata lived next door?

Deciding that it was better he get it over with sooner, Sasuke swiped with his thumb to accept the call and brought the phone up to his ear. "What?" he grunted.

"The hell, you know exactly what, Uchiha." Neji barked back. Tsking under his breath, Sasuke moved deeper into his apartment, habitually checking each of the simple traps to make sure no one had been inside in his absence and nothing was out of place. As he did so, Neji continued to grumble at him over the phone: "I'd heard that you'd gone and fucked up and blown your cover in front of a civilian, but I didn't know it was Hinata's roommate. I swear, if she catches wind of any of this I will end you. Hinata is-"

"Yeah, I know. An heiress." Sasuke cut him off as he went inside his bedroom, sitting down in front of his computer desk to watch the cameras in Sakura's apartment in his peripherals. She was putting away her groceries, nothing interesting.

"My Uncle is a powerful man, Uchiha. We Hyuuga are and old family. I don't want them knowing about what I do for a living and I especially don't want Hinata getting caught up in any of this mess. Or my girlfriend, for that matter."

"It's not my fault you don't keep your personal and work life separate." Sasuke drummed his fingers impatiently on the desk. All Konoha agents were encouraged to cut their personal ties or keep them to a minimum, to prevent friends or family from becoming involved or asking questions. All of their work was highly classified and leaking information about the organization could end in termination—of one's life and not just their employment.

"Look who's talking. You really should have done better recon before setting up your base there. It's a rookie mistake not to know who your neighbours are."

That much was true, he would give Neji that—although of course he would never admit so out loud. "Get to the point, Hyuuga. There's nothing I can do about it now. Sakura's been brought into the program and I've got her under close surveillance until she's given full agent status. I plan to move her as soon as I get the chance but she's not exactly cooperative."

She hadn't been given much of a choice in any of this, and he had only himself and his own carelessness to blame for that. Eventually, once she was fully trained and she had earned Konoha's trust by proving her loyalty, when she was able to follow orders, carry out missions, and protect their secrets, she would be fully initiated into the organization and allowed a small degree of freedom. Although none of them could never be truly "free"—once they were in the organization they were in it for good, and the only way out was death. Their movements would forever be monitored and they could never lead a normal, civilian life—they were in the business of secret-keeping and underground war.

"Well, you made this mess so I suggest you find a way to clean it up. Find an excuse to cancel the date." Hyuuga said, and Sasuke began twirling a pen lazily in his fingers as he listened disinterestedly to his lecture. "I don't want Hinata closer to this than she is already. And please for the love of all things holy tell me that Ino didn't mean Naruto when she was referring to your 'blond friend.'"

"Do I have a lot of blond friends?" Sasuke answered rhetorically and glanced at the monitors as a movemennt caught his eye. "Oh, shit. Shit."

Sakura had begun moving closer to the camera, and was now level with it so that he could see her face-close up as she stared directly into the no-longer-hidden lens. "What?" Neji inquired.

"She found one of the cameras. I've got to go."

He hung up his cell without waiting for Hyuuga to reply, leaning back in his office chair and running his hands through his glossy black hair, smoothing it away from his eyes and face. Sasuke sighed deeply, watching the black and white monitor as the camera angle spun when she plucked the tiny piece of technology out of the plant and glared into it. A moment later the screen went black. He was honestly surprised; he had not expected her to find any of the bugs. It was not as though he had put them in any obvious place as he had been trained in proper reconnaissance and surveillance, as all agents of Konoha were—spying was a fundamental part of the job. She must have had a keener eye and better observational skills than he'd thought.

He debated whether or not to talk to her about it immediately or if perhaps he should ignore the incident and not mention it to her at all unless she brought it up first. There wasn't a lot of activity in the kitchen and he could always go in and place more cameras later, as long as she didn't...

...Find any of the others.

Of course he should have known that she would immediately look for additional cameras. Every single thing Sakura did seemed to be with the express purpose of making his life difficult. He had a premonition that this girl would be the death of him. Over the course of an hour she found all except two of the bugs, (which was impressive really as they were well-concealed) while he did nothing but sit and watch with increasing unease, after each and every one hoping that she wouldn't find the next until she inevitably did and hope gave way to exasperation. One by one the camera feeds which divided his monitors went black as she destroyed each piece of expensive equipment that she found. He sorely hoped he wouldn't have to pay for the damages out of his pocket.

"Are you listening? Can you hear me, you bastard? If so: consider this a warning. I'm giving you a two-minute head start, and then I'm coming after you."

The mic squealed and then with a sickening crunch another screen went black. Sasuke gritted his teeth and glanced towards his bedroom door. Of course he wasn't about to run away. He wasn't afraid of some little pink-haired woman half his size. He would remain calmly in place and face her head-on, calmly explaining that it was only standard protocol, and he meant nothing personal by it; he hadn't been spying on her for any sort of perverse reasons. It was his job to watch her.

As the seconds ticked by he grew increasingly, irrationally anxious. He exited his bedroom, rolling up the sleeves of his navy blue button-up shirt and flexing his neck. He was not afraid of some tiny, unarmed female and it was not that he was anticipating a real threat to his person, no, he was not mentally preparing himself for a fight, that would be absurd—

What had Neji's girlfriend called her? "The Iron Fist of Death"?

"UCHIHA SASUKE!" Bang. Bang. Bang. The front door shuddered from the force of her fist as he stood coolly in the entrance-way. She was right on time. It had been two minutes exactly.

He hesitated to open the door. Maybe he should just leave her out there even if it would cause a scene—she could bang on his door and scream at him all she liked until she had calmed down and then, after she had settled, he would speak to her. It wasn't like she was going to force her way inside of his apartment.

BANG! BANG! BANG! The door shuddered more violently, the wood straining as she slammed against it. Alarmed, he quickly unlocked the deadbolt and yanked it open, and she came barrelling inside, thrown off balance by the sudden absence of a barrier. "Quit that before you bust the door." he snarled at her, catching her wrist as she went flying forward so she didn't land flat on her face.

She changed momentum quickly, swinging around and throwing a carefully-aimed punch directly at his face. (Why was it always the face?) But this time he would not be so careless as to underestimate her completely. He dodged the blow, ducking swiftly out of the way so that her clenched fist sailed over his head, skimming the dark spikes of hair at the back.

"How dare you?" she seethed. "That is my home! I have a right to privacy within my own home!"

"Not anymore." he replied swiftly, straightening up and sidestepping a kick aimed at his shin. He kept a firm grasp on her one wrist and attempted to wrestle her into submission, nudging the door shut behind him so that anyone passing by the hall wouldn't witness the struggle. She fought like a wild animal and he took special care to avoid being hit by any of her flailing limbs, knowing that it would definitely leave a mark and he'd had enough already of people asking him about what happened to his face. "Stop that." he urged her, managing to grab a hold of her other wrist and pushing her back into his apartment. "Sakura, it's standard protocol."

"Why? I'm not a criminal or a child and I don't deserve to be treated like either." she argued with him, stamping at his feet while he quickly evaded, the two of them spinning in his living room like some strange, violent dance. "You put cameras in my bedroom. I took my clothes off!"

"It wasn't much to look at." he bit back at her meanly. In truth he hadn't looked at all, as he did believe she deserved to preserve some sense of modesty and he wasn't the sort to leer at someone without their knowledge or consent. But perhaps his comment had been a bit much and he realized so shortly afterwards, when her beautiful too-green eyes began to well up and glisten wetly with tears; he immediately felt a pang of guilt at the sight and loosened his grip on her enough that she managed to draw a hand back and slap him smartly across the cheek. It stung.

"I hate this." she said, her voice suddenly quiet and shaken. Her shoulders shook and she let out a single sob. "I hate this, and I hate you."

She sat down on his couch and began to cry in earnest, her face hidden behind her slender, pale hands. He stood there and watched her, now feeling immensely uncomfortable and more than a little awful. He knew it was nobody's fault but his own for getting her caught up in this mess. Things would have been so much simpler if only he had turned her away that night when she had asked to use his phone. To this day he was not sure what madness had inspired her to let her come inside; maybe it was the way she had looked so tired and helpless, and some long-forgotten part of him that still believed he could be a white knight wanted to come to her rescue ... even if it was only to let her use the phone.

"Please ... stop crying." he said, shuffling and offering her a box of tissues from the coffee table. She took several, sniffing, and blew her noise. This was why he couldn't deal with women: they were so emotional and he didn't have the first idea how to react to their tears. "I promise I didn't actually watch you change clothes."

"Liar!" she accused him between quieting sobs, dabbing furiously at her eyes which were an even brighter green through the gloss of her tears, her cheeks pink and lips trembling.

"Fine." he snapped at her. "I looked and you have a very nice ass. Happy?"

Oddly enough she did seem a little happier, or at least a little less weepy. She lifted up her wet eyes to glower at him, the last of her tears escaping on a shaky sigh, and then muttered: "Pervert."

She did admittedly have a very nice ass, though he hated to be branded as a pervert when he had been nothing but a perfect gentlemen ... well, perhaps not quite, but insomuch as the circumstances would allow. "I had no choice but to install cameras, Sakura. It's for your own safety as much as it is for the security of the organization. You're not armed and you don't know how to defend yourself."

"I can take care of myself fine!" she protested.

"Against drunks, maybe. Against brutal, highly-trained murderers, not so much." At this she winced and fell silent. "We don't know yet for sure if you've been marked as our associate by our enemy, but we can't take any risks." Not with her life and not with their very sensitive information; for the time being, she was a liability and a dangerous one at that. She knew Tsunade's identity, she knew Sasuke's, and by now she might have suspected Neji's. "It won't be like this forever. Once you've been properly trained and the organization trusts you, you'll have a little more ... wiggle-room, so to speak."

There was a pause, and she seemed to be thinking a long while before she spoke again. "And how long will that take? When will I have 'earned' their loyalty?"

"In time." he answered plainly. "It's different for everybody. It depends solely on you. For some, the training process can take years." However, he suspected she might advance a little quicker. She obviously came from some martial arts background, and she was intelligent—she would make for a quick study. "And then once you've been graduated to a full agent, gradually you'll receive certain 'privileges': a weekend without an escort every now and again, higher security clearance, access to more sensitive information and missions... eventually you'll be able to move around on your own, and so on."

"But," she let out a long, worried exhale, clearly not pleased with his answer. "It's not fair to Hinata and Ino. They live there, too. I don't want them to be spied on. I don't want them involved."

"If you don't like the cameras, the only alternative is that you move in with me. That way I can keep a closer eye on your movements without being ... quite as obtrusive." It was not the ideal situation, but it would certainly be cheaper and easier than constantly installing surveillance equipment in her apartment just for her to track them down and destroy them every time—which he fully expected she would.

Sakura stared up at him, wide-eyed. He thought she might have gone a little redder in the face. "M-move in together?" There was a beat of silence as her gaze grew shred and suspicious, and then she said: "You'd like that, wouldn't you? Pervert."

Now it was his turn to flush. "I'm not a pervert. It wouldn't be for any reasons like that. I have no intention of putting a hand on you. It would be for convenience and security, only that. This location was compromised, so I'll be needing to relocate anyways." As a matter of fact, that he hadn't done so already was a little careless of him. He shouldn't have returned here at all—if one Akatsuki agent had known about his whereabouts, who was to say that others did not as well?

"But ... what would I tell my roommates? It would seem like we were ... you know ..."

"In a relationship, yes. That would be the easiest cover story." he went on. "We'd have to come up with some sort of story eventually anyway, as we'll be seeing a lot of each other from now on, as I am both your trainer and handler. We would not really be in any sort of romantic relationship, naturally; we'd just pretend to be."

"I ... I'll need to think about it." Sakura muttered quietly.

"Well, do so fast. Either you make it up or I'll be making it up for you. We'll need to commence your training soon as well. I'd like to start as soon as Monday if possible, so you'll need to get your life in order before then."

She sighed at him, swallowed, and then nodded her head.

Hoooooo what's this? Another post? You bet. :D Keep the reviews coming! Pfft, Sasuke, you totes know that you are 100% pervy and you dig Sakura's ass.

I started up a tumblr account, feel free to follow me on there! My account name is: t-a-c-o-c-a-t-writes. I'll be posting my fanfiction and some fanart there, so please check it out and follow me!

Also if any of y'all are looking for some steamy SasuSaku lemon, read the first chapter of my new story, "Firsts"!