Sakura eyed her hands as they meticulously wound the woven gauze from her heel to an inch below her scrapped knee. Blood seeped into the thin cloth and disinterestedly continued to wrap layer upon layer until it seeped no more. It was a routine act and didn't require conscious thought.

'Just another mission.' She thought idly. 'Just another mission…'


A smooth voice interrupted her solitude in the sterile locker room. While the air was still steamy from her hot shower, Sakura could easily pinpoint the source of the voice through the haze. The mission hadn't been especially grueling but an ANBU mission always required a great amount of focus, skill, strategy, and blood.

Always blood.

She and her team had executed the objective with little trouble – almost flawlessly if it hadn't been for the gash she had received. She had healed it as much as she was willing to, but not completely. She wanted a reminder of what a small distraction had cost her.

Sakura watched as Neji smoothly sat astride her bench and didn't miss the way his pearly eyes slowly trailed from her freshly bandaged handiwork, to her still glistening wet thigh, and stopping short at the hem of her short, frayed towel. She couldn't help the small blush that hued her already rosy cheeks and dropped her propped leg to cover any peeking indecencies.

Even though she made eye contact with him, she had noted that he had taken the time to shower too. The residual water from his damp hair dripped into the comforts of the fluffed black towel wrapped behind his neck. His chiseled physique was clothed with a simple white tank and dark sweats hanging low on his hips.

"Hi Neji," Sakura smiled softly, "You okay?"

No reply.



"I'm fine."

He answered a bit too quickly and averted his gaze from Sakura's even more questioning look. He had been distracted by the way her skin glowed warmly and the rise and fall of her perfect breast against the loosing folds of her towel.

It was hard.

It was hard to internalize his rough want to slam her against the cold, granite floor and roughly shove himself into her until she screamed his name.

While he harbored the greatest respect for the kunoichi before him, it hadn't deterred his want of bedding her – it only made the want stronger. But he was hesitant. Sakura wasn't like the other girls that he and the other shinobi in the village took erotic pleasure in and then subsequently tossed aside. There were those who were gentle with their rejection and there were those who were not so gentle – but the rejection was always the end result. No attachments. But Neji knew, he just knew that if he ever got, and took, the chance to make Sakura his – he wouldn't be able to walk away. And that was what fielded his hesitance and deterred him from following through.

Being tied down wasn't appealing.

He cleared his throat silently, "Are you sure you don't need to get looked at? I can walk you over to the hospital."

Sakura stood up and wiggled her right leg purposely missing the way Neji's hand flinched. She smiled brightly, her green eyes soft, and smoothly opened her battered locker. Her cotton candy hair fell in disarray along her back and Neji couldn't help but stare.

"I have no injuries that I can't heal on my own." She paused slightly and threw a meaningful look across her shoulder. "Thanks. For pushing me out of the way…I….I should have been more alert and aware of those around me."

"Yes." Neji cautiously began. "You should have but I –"

He stopped cold when he felt a presence behind him, but didn't bother turning around to acknowledge their interruption.

The man always did have fucking flawless timing.



There was an underlying, dark unpleasantness to Sasuke's tone. One that Neji didn't believe Sakura heard as she turned to face the two of them, furiously toweling off her hair.

"Hey Sasuke." She absently clutched an extra, now damp towel to her chest.

Four years ago, she would have been uncomfortable at having two of Konoha's most powerful ANBU captains stare at her while barely covered; but, countless missions had shirked away all her expectations of privacy and modesty. She took in Sasuke's black slacks and thermal shirt.

"Did you need me?"

Sasuke stared unblinkingly at Sakura. He shoved his hands into his pockets and leaned a strong shoulder onto the cold row of metal lockers. "Get dressed."

Sakura rolled her eyes, grabbed a few items of clothes, and shut her locker with a slight slam. There was finality in Sasuke's voice that she wasn't up to arguing with it…especially not in front of company.

She eyed them both warily before twirling around and exiting to a more secluded changing area. "Be back then."

Without moving from his place, Sasuke stared at Neji with cool façade – save for the menacing, slight sneer etched on his face.

"TenTen's fully recovered now," he started, "I suspect that she would want you with her if she knew that you were back early from your mission."

Neji lifted a cool eyebrow and turned in his place, but didn't bother to get up – just yet. "I didn't know that you and TenTen were so close as to care about each other's …. wants, Uchiha."

"We don't." Sasuke scoffed, "I don't give a damn about you and your team, Hyuuga. What I care about is making you aware that your teammate is fine now."

He pushed off the lockers as Neji stood. They matched in height….and in egos.

"And next time you need another member to complete your team - " Sasuke continued, cautious to keep his voice low in case Sakura was making her way back – "I'd appreciate if you don't specifically request Sakura."

So fuck off.

Neji smirked but was angrily unsettled at being warned off. He didn't like not getting what he wanted. And what he wanted happened to be the precious teammate of the deadliest shinobi who made up Team 7. Fate had a funny way of working. He smiled smugly in the Sasuke's face, enjoying the way that his face flickered with annoyance before making Neji made his own exit. The grace period for submitting his oral report to the Hokage was coming to an end.

"I'll leave those decisions up to Sakura. We work well together. Give her my goodbye."

And with that, he was gone.

Sasuke scowled at the Hyuuga's retreating back, his hand itching towards his concealed kunai. He wasn't stupid. He had seen the way every man in the village – single, dating, or married - vied to get closer to Sakura. Either she was oblivious or didn't care enough to notice. He saw the simple pedestrians as nothing but mere annoyances who were infatuated with the kunoichi's beauty and the heroic tales of her life; but the ones that were like them – high ranking shinobi – who knew her well enough to respect her power, her skill, her kindness and devotion – those were the ones that Sasuke took the time to single out and warn. They were the ones who had the influence to mess with their lives.

And he wasn't keen on having his team bothered.

His face neutralized as he felt Sakura approaching. She appeared fully dressed in black shorts and a tight sleeveless black top. Her hair had been dried and her cheeks still warmly flushed.

"Where did Neji go?" She asked curiously. Her eyes darted around and she shifted under Sasuke's scrutinizing gaze. She'd never get totally used to his silence but was thankful that his snappiness faded away over the years.

"Shut up. Let's go." He grabbed her wrist firmly but only to give it a fleeting tug toward the doorway. "The others are waiting for us."

Fucking Hyuuga.

Sakura merely followed alongside him. She snuck a glance at him and was sure that he knew. She glanced anyways, not caring if he minded or not. She had long ago gotten over the obsessive adoration she had for him as a genin. It had taken her a while, admittedly, but she had. Once Sasuke took notice of that fact, he and she had solidified their own special relationship within Team 7. It was a steadfast strong friendship that both had surprisingly welcomed.

While she was curious about his behavior, she knew better than to give into her curiosity. If Sasuke wanted to share, he would share.

And ninety-nine percent of the time, Sasuke didn't want to share.

Ironically, she didn't realize just how true that was.