Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto…

Introduction: Sai's Understanding

Sai remembered the day, the exact instant it happened. Team Kakashi was returning home from one of their easier missions and were only hours from the Village; Sai didn't have much time. He had just finished one of the chapters of the book he had been reading, Friends and Friendship. Chapter 5, Holding Hands, had given him a great idea on how to boost the steady level of friendship that he had been gaining with both Naruto and Sakura.

Captain Yamato was leading the group, Naruto and Sakura were walking side by side behind him, and Sai was alone behind them all. He placed his book into his pack and got ready to execute his plan. His palms were somewhat sweaty; this was nothing to fighting an enemy. With speed and stealth Sai managed to unknowingly place himself between Naruto and Sakura, and with one quick movement he grasped each of their hands. All three ninja stopped, frozen in place.

Naruto's head slowly and stupidly turned down to see his own hand clasped in Sai's. His jaw dropped and utter revulsion was written all over his face as he stuttered, "S—S-- Sai… What the…" He tried feebly to pull his hand away, but Sai held on. Captain Yamato had heard the three stop walking and turned quickly to see what the problem was, but with Naruto and Sai's hands hanging in their air all he could do was turn so they wouldn't see him laughing.

Finally over his momentary shock, Naruto retched his hand from Sai's, "What the hell is wrong with you?" he barked as he looked down at his hand. Naruto wiped his hand on his clothes vigorously as if trying to eliminate any feeling of Sai's touch which never seemed to be totally removed.

Naruto's reaction had not been what Sai had hoped for and he looked down disappointed and dejected. Slowly, he turned his head to Naruto, "Naruto, I'm…" Sai voice stopped and his eyes opened wide. His head shot in the other direction at Sakura who, he had just realized, was still grasping his hand.

It was this moment that had kept him up for the past two nights; this moment that he seemed to see whenever he closed his eyes. Sai had never seen Sakura as he did at that moment: her head angled acutely down, cheeks only slightly less pink than the bangs which hung down over her eyes, and her free hand drawn up to her face; her index finger pressed loosely against her lips which were smiling shyly. Sai's closed eyes studied her face as he had countless times before and then opened them to reveal nothing but his dark ceiling. "What is this feeling?" he thought out loud. Not receiving a response from the empty room he closed his eyes again and relived the dream. Having fallen asleep during this recountanance, the dream finished in his sleep.

Her giggle was quiet, but seemed to send shockwaves through their connected hands. "Sai…" she spoke in a joyous tone, quite the opposite of Naruto's, "why would you do that?" Sakura released Sai's hand and it fell limply to his side. Sai did not sense the rejection that Naruto had displayed when he and Sakura's touch ended.

Trying to comprehend the new emotions that were surging through him, Sai had not realized that silence had arrived as both Naruto and Sakura, and secretly Captain Yamato, were waiting for his answer. "Oh…" Sai looked around, "I read it… in a book. I read that friends hold hands to show their closeness to one another, and I…" his voice faded off as Naruto's loud and disgusted rejection played in his head.

Naruto sighed, relieved to discover that Sai did not have some secret crush on him, and Sakura giggled again. "Sai, holding hands is more for people who are…" she looked around trying to find the best way to put it, "… for people who are more than friends." She hoped that this vague statement would be enough to help him understand, but everyone present had already known Sai to misunderstand less complicated ideas than this one. "For people…" Sakura tried to be more clear, "… who like each other." Of course, Sai did not completely understand.

The next morning, Sai once again sat alone at a desk in the Konoha Library with several stacks of books on friendship and related topics. He put Friends and Friendship on top of the right-most stack: the tried and failed stack. The stack, by far the largest of all, teetered for a second with its newest addition and fell across the desk knocking over the other stacks of books. The loud crash echoed through the large, empty library. Sai's desk and the floor surrounding it was now a jumble of books, large and small, colorful and grey.

Embarrassed, Sai quickly straightened up his desk and turned to pick up the books on the floor. He had never seen some of these books before. The first, Icha Icha: Paradise, seemed to have been picked up by mistake, and the second, a large purple book that looked to have over one-thousand pages, seemed to be way too long. The third book that he picked up, however, caught his eye and grasped his full attention.

This book was smaller than most, but thick enough to contain much useful information. It wasn't the size of the book that caught Sai's attention, however, it was one of the large words written on the front cover: "Like." Sai, forgetting the rest of the fallen books, sat back on his chair and read the title of the book: Girls like it when… Under the title in slightly smaller print read: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming More Than Friends. Sai knew instantly that this was the book he needed. He stuffed the small book in his pack and ran home, leaving the mess of books for someone else to pick up. The entire trip back home he realized the emotion he had been feeling and why he had picked that book: he wanted to be more than friends with Sakura.