A/N: Special thanks to a dear friend of mine, Nicole Wong, for the nicknames she gave for Sasuke. The nicknames will be given by Ino in this fiction. This is an answer to my friend's challenge. And since this story is due by the end of December, I'll be focusing on this first.

Say it Again
November: The Next Axe Model

"The thing about love is I never saw it coming."

That song is playing again, and I'm getting annoyed at it. It's nice and all, but if it's always playing wherever I go, I get pissed off; especially since it's about love.

What's love anyway? I don't think it exists without a reason anymore. Somehow, it's always 'I love you because…' and never '…because I love you.'

I sighed and began to cross the street with the rest of the pedestrians, my thoughts keeping me preoccupied as I pondered over what my friends and I share in common: Unlucky in love.

Let's start off with Temari.

She's not exactly unlucky that much, but sort of is, since her current boyfriend used to have another girlfriend. But he chose her in the end. So, she's out of the unlucky list.

Next girl, who also happens to be the other girlfriend that Temari's boyfriend has, is Ino.

Shocking? I know. It's especially hard since both girls equally love the guy and both girls are friends with each other. Of course, I'm just glad that Temari and Ino have agreed to be cool about it, deciding that whoever Shikamaru (the boy they both love) chooses, the other will have to accept it.

Well, Ino was of course heartbroken by that, and Temari couldn't forgive Shikamaru for what he did to both of them, but Ino managed to talk Temari into forgetting about the past and live on happily, firmly saying that she was fine and that if Temari and Shikamaru are happy with each other, then she can be happy for them.

Such sweet friends they are, I know.

And then we have Tenten, who wanted to try being more than friends with Lee, her childhood buddy.

It didn't work out, since Lee told Tenten that he couldn't, especially after he admitted that he only did it to make Tenten happy and not because he really wanted to. Tenten felt touched and angry at the same time, since she tried to love Lee, but Lee didn't make an effort to do so. Still, they remained friends till the end.

Hinata comes in next.

Her boyfriend happens to be the biggest asshole out of all. The guy wanted nothing more but sex, and since Hinata strongly believes in sex after marriage like I do, the guy left her for some whore. What could you expect to happen next but tears, tears, and more tears? Add to that us showing up every night with sweets and horror movies to forget about the incident.

As for me, well…

Let's just say I'm somewhat on the same boat as Hinata, except after I told my boyfriend about sex after marriage, he agreed and did not make a move. I was glad, but after Ino told me that she saw my boyfriend with another girl enter a love hotel, I was hurt. But being the stupid love-struck girl that I am, I defended my guy and told my friends that we're not yet even married, so it's still fine with me. I even specified that if I were in my boyfriend's shoes, I probably would have done the same thing.

Guys don't get pregnant like girls do, so they have no idea what the pain us girls have to go through. And when having sexual intercourse, it's us who receives the pain when they insert their sex organs in ours. So, I can understand.

Unfortunately, my boyfriend found out that I knew of his one-night stands with whores. So, one afternoon, when my parents were out, we watched a movie at my place, and he started touching my thigh. I was okay with that, since he didn't do anything afterwards. But before we even reached halfway through the movie, he began feeling me up; his arm that was around my shoulder had begun groping my chest, and I pushed him away.

He did not like my refusal, so he pinned me down on the couch and forced himself on me. Luckily, my parents arrived, and my dad was furious that he could've killed my boyfriend if mom and I hadn't stopped him.

And being the stupid, stupid girl that I was, I did not sue him for sexual harassment. I just let it go and broke up with him, but I shuddered when he told me he won't stop until he gets what he wants, and that led my father to keeping me at home and not letting me out unless my friends were with me. He became a lot stricter than ever, and I couldn't blame him.

Of course, days later, my friends' lucks changed. Ino found herself a guy who was silent but friendly. She said she met him at the park when he was on a bench, eyeing the pigeons that pecked the seeds on the ground.

Ino mentioned sitting down next to him and started ranting while he listened attentively. When she finished, she found herself attracted to him when he said: "That's stupid."

When we asked about it, Ino said that she had awoken from realization at how stupid it really was for her to continue loving Shikamaru; stupid for her to keep hoping that she'll move on when she's not even trying.

I was happy when Ino said that she asked the guy out. And though he seemed stupefied, he shrugged and said it was okay with him.

We met him last week, and he was fond of insects, which Ino despises but is learning to appreciate and fear them less. The guy's name was Aburame Shino, and from the way things are going between him and Ino, I'd say my friend has found her match.

So, along with Temari, Ino is now out of the unlucky in love list.

Before we knew it, Tenten had started talking nonstop about how she finally found her Mr. Right. We, of course, were excited to hear about it, so she started talking.

Apparently, she has two childhood friends: Lee and Neji.

The latter was actually her real crush, but she said that she couldn't confess, because he seemed too preoccupied with so many things to bother about love. But Tenten said that she was wrong, because when Neji found out about her and Lee's break-up, Neji had rushed over to her place to see how she was doing, and they talked.

She said that she shouldn't have bothered, and that was when Neji had asked why she didn't try being more than friends with him instead of Lee. Tenten admitted that she wanted to but was afraid that he would say no, but Neji assured her that he would never do or say anything that would hurt Tenten, and that was when they agreed to try what she and Lee had failed in succeeding.

Based from how happy Tenten looked at that time, I'm pretty sure she's found the right guy. So that also strikes her out of the unlucky in love list, leaving Hinata and I behind…


…I soon found out that Hinata had met someone new, and from the way she talked about the boy, I knew that she would be out of the unlucky in love list.

His name was Naruto, and she said he was sweet and funny. She said that he saw her one day, the day after her boyfriend left her. She mentioned how he said that a sad expression on a face as pretty as hers did not match. He said that he wanted a smile from the cute girl, and when Hinata had given one due to amusement to the boy, Naruto had grinned and asked for a favor.

We asked her what favor it was, and we all squealed when she said that Naruto had wanted to see her smile the next time they met, and when Hinata had asked when that would be, Naruto gave another grin and asked: "How's tomorrow night at seven?"

I, for one, surely believe that Naruto was good. The way he asked her out was somewhat original for me, and I was happy that Hinata had found him – or rather, that Naruto had decided to cheer her up.

So now, I'm alone in the unlucky in love list. But you know what? It's fine. I don't think I'd want to fall in love again, because I refuse to be hurt again. I know it's quite cliché, I've actually heard and read stories like this, when someone was hurt, he or she is afraid of experiencing that pain through love.

Sighing to myself, I pulled my coat closer to my body and headed towards the amusement park with my MP3 player deciding to play "Go on Girl" by NeYo; how convenient…

I was too preoccupied in listening to the lyrics and letting myself drown in the beat of the music that I realized too late that someone had grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the crowd. My earphones fell off, and I looked up to see none other than my ex-boyfriend, smirking down at me, his friends having the same evil smiles on their faces as they circled around me and my bastard of an ex.

"It's about time you came out of your home." He said, and I couldn't deny how I still held romantic feelings for him. It was crazy and idiotic, I know, but I can't help myself, I don't even know why I love him, and that's probably what I'd call true love, because there's no reason for me to love him, I just really do, and I know for a fact that I would surely pay the hard way for loving him.

"Let me go." I said softly yet firmly, however, I couldn't look deep into his eyes. I ended up turning my gaze away from him, deciding to just stare at the floor. "Please." I begged.

"Now that I've got you..? I don't think so Sakura."

"Seriously, just let me go." I repeated, gathering enough courage to face him. How could that smirk of his change so much? How can he suddenly become this bad..? I don't know who he is anymore; I don't remember him being like this. "I can't love you like this, I just can't!"

"Oh? Why not?"

"You're not the same… you no longer smile warmly at me, you no longer let me feel your love… I just don't know you anymore. So just let go!"

Instead of doing what I told him to do, his grip just tightened, and he leaned to my ear and whispered: "Not until I'm through with you."

He only wanted me for sex, not because he loves me as he used to say. Can't he realize how lucky he actually is for me to not sue him for his previous advances on me? Can't he just let me move on?

"I… It's over between us, so stop it. Get on with your life." I told him. "I've already moved on, so, just do the same…"

"Really, Sakura..? Then tell me, why are you here, all alone?"

I felt like it was useless to get him to let go, but I still tried.

"I'm seeing someone else. I'm meeting him here." I lied, hoping he'd just buy it and leave. But I know that it won't happen. He knows me after all. I could've said that earlier if it were true.

"Whether you're telling the truth or not, this new boyfriend of yours isn't here yet, so I can still have my way with you."

I guess I should've just stayed home...

"What the-?!"

My eyes widened and looked at my ex, seeing how he was glaring at someone, and I turned to eye the hand that gripped onto his arm, making him let me go.

"Who the hell do you think you are?!"

I could tell my ex was mad, and I wanted to see who was brave enough to actually save me. And with just one look, with just one glance, I was glad to have left home today.

"I'm the guy she's meeting with."

Damn. That voice was deep and smooth – to me at least.

"You son of a-" my ex couldn't finish what he wanted to say, for he cried out in pain, and I was shocked to see that my savior had such a strong grip to cause this much damage. I knew for a fact that my ex can handle pain, and it was the first time I actually heard him crying out, and his friends stood frozen, as shocked as I was.

"I don't think you understand the definition of an ex-boyfriend."

Whoever my savior was, I was very thankful that he kept his cool.

When he finally let go of my ex, he turned to me, placed a gentle hand on my back and led me away, turning back to glare at my ex and say: "I'd appreciate it if you check the dictionary and understand what the word 'former' means if 'ex' is too much for your brain to process."

And I couldn't help but giggle inwardly at that statement as my savior and I blended with the crowd, disappearing from my ex-boyfriend and his gang's sight.

"Um…" I looked up at him since he was a head taller than me, also about an inch and a half taller than my former boyfriend. "Thanks, I really owe you one." I bowed down a bit to show my gratitude and gave him a friendly smile.

He nodded once, and then turned up ahead as we walked.

"I'm not one to pry into people's lives, but do you mind telling me why you decided to help me out?"

"I'm an ex-soldier."

Once again, I found myself dumbfounded.

"What?" he asked after seeing my reaction. "Just because I'm no longer part of the military doesn't mean I ignore a situation where in my assistance is needed."

The way he spoke so professionally only proves his claim. Not to mention how his back was straight and his shoulders broad, the way he walked and held his head, the way he seemed to keep an impassive face yet still look at me directly in the eye due to our conversation, the way he seemed blunt and direct to the point, the way he caused my ex to cringe with just one strong grip…

"Why ex-soldier?" was the only thing that came out of my mouth. "I mean… Why did you quit?"

He kept his eyes on me for a moment before turning away. "My mother worries too much. My father and I have been arguing about my long-distance assignments, and my brother does not want to see me missing a limb or two on his wedding day."

"Don't you… regret it?"

"Not entirely."

"I see." I hung my head for a moment before smiling at him when we got out of the amusement park and stopped walking. He only looked at me with a serious face, but I was not intimidated, even if he had such a tall form. "Well, thanks again." I offered him a hand to shake. "I'm Haruno Sakura, by the way."

"Hn." He took my hand in a firm yet somewhat gentle grip and shook it once. "Uchiha Sasuke, no longer at your service." And he smirked.

"Ah, so you do have a sense of humor." I joked back, laughing slightly. Being an ex-soldier, he definitely was no longer available for offering his services. He's now just like me, a normal civilian, albeit a girl on-leave from her job as a nurse after she was told to.

"Hn. I'm only human." He shrugged, and then eyed her. "You should head home."

"Yeah, I should, but he's probably waiting…" I murmured, knowing that my ex would most likely head over there and jump at me before I even reach the safety of my home. "I guess I'll just head somewhere else."

I was tempted to ask Sasuke to accompany me for a while, but I didn't want to push my luck, so I just smiled and made a move to leave. "I'll… see you around, I guess."


My heart leapt. Why? I don't know. Was it because he was so damn gorgeous that it's not the right word to describe him? Was it the way he sounded demanding..?

"…Are you sure you're going to be alright?"

I smiled at his concern. "Yeah, I should be."

His eyes seemed to express that he had an inner debate, until finally, he spoke again.

"I don't have anything to do as of the moment; maybe I can walk you home to be sure."

"Eh? Well, I don't exactly plan on heading home just yet." That was the truth, so don't go accusing me as if I made that up. I just felt bored staying at home. "I'm actually planning to have coffee at Starbucks. Expensive but, it's the holidays." I grinned. I always looked forward to their specials when it's almost December.

"In that case, maybe I ought to escort you then."

If it weren't for that blank face of his, I would've thought that he's hitting on me. Ah, wishful thinking, that's what it is.

So here we are at Starbucks, watching the scenery outside, enjoying the silence - until I broke it…

"You're not from around here, huh?" I began, looking at him as I sipped my drink. Good coffee…

"Yeah, I'm originally from Kanagawa."

"Of course, it's the only place in Japan that has a military school." I smiled. "What course did you take there?" from what I heard, NDA (National Defense Academy) of Japan is a university level type of military school, which means that Sasuke probably had a normal life from elementary to high school.

"I graduated from the Defense Sciences department, major in Strategic Studies."

"…Wow." I breathed, my face turning red when he looked at me and blinked, then gave a small smirk and looked outside the window. His smirk reminded me of my ex, and when I first thought that only my ex had the best looking smirk, after seeing Sasuke's… I'm taking what I said back then. "Was it… tough?"


I stammered a bit. "I mean… your school… course… was it hard?"

"Sort of." He shrugged nonchalantly. Gosh, he's so cool. "I enrolled there, so, despite how difficult it would be," his face turned serious all of a sudden, and I saw the determined glint in his eyes, noticed the passion he once had for being a soldier. "I should overcome all the challenges."

"And you're regretting your decision to quit…" I stated, covering my mouth instantly when I realized what I just said and quickly apologized. He only looked at me for a moment, then shook his head and turned outside.

"Yeah, I do, but…" he smirked, again. "I don't have much of a choice."

I smiled at that. "I see what you mean." And looked down at my drink, storing every bit of information he shared in my brain. "When did you move here in Tokyo?"



"Parents." He answered. "And my brother's fiancée lives here."

"I see…" I leaned back at my seat. "What clubs did you take back then?"

"Archery and English Speaking Society in high school." He replied. "Motor race, astronomy and meteorology in NDA…" he paused for a moment, and then turned to me with an unreadable expression on his face. "So, miss Haruno, why are you interrogating me?" and he smirked in an amused way.

I blushed and laughed nervously. "I'm not; I'm just… having a conversation…" I sighed and tried to calm down. He was no longer a soldier right? Why should I be so worried? Ah, ex-soldier, right. He still has the soldier know-how bit. "I don't really like the silence when I'm with someone."

"Hn. Too awkward for you?"


"I guess I can't blame you then."

I could only hope for time to travel slowly, but this is reality. All the good times seem to come to an end a lot faster than the boring ones. So now, here we are in front of Ino's family's flower shop. He walked me here after I told him that I didn't want to go home yet.

"Thanks, hope I'm not troubling you much."

"Don't worry about it." He said, taking out his mobile phone. "All I ask in return is for your contact number."

It was hard not to think that he might be planning to ask me out or get to know me or something, but I tried to convince myself that he just probably wanted my number in case of emergencies, so I gave it to him, and he gave me his.

"I'll be seeing you around then." I said, waving goodbye as he nodded and left, hands pocketed as the cold air blew, making me hug my coat closer to my body while my eyes remained staring at his departing figure, seeing as how he didn't seem to mind the cold weather much.

Smiling to myself, I went inside the flower shop, seeing how Ino had greeted me with a knowing grin, and I was sure that she'd start interrogating me about Sasuke, no doubt about it.

"Who's the cutie?" she asked me with batting eyelashes and an expectant smile.

"Former soldier," I answered. "Uchiha Sasuke, he saved me from Riku."

"Oooh… Nice catch." Ino said with a grin. "What did Riku do this time?"

I sighed and took a seat. "He attempted to… you know… and he surrounded me with his gang so that I won't be able to escape."

"And what did The Next Axe Model do?"

I blinked and let what Ino just nicknamed Sasuke register in my head. "Wait, what?"

Ino laughed at me. "Oh come on, don't play dumb with me Sakura! You've seen him up close; no doubt you've seen how good he looks!"

I agree with Ino on that, but I couldn't help but laugh when she dubbed Sasuke as the next model of Axe. "Are you saying that every girl he passes by would instantly look his way?"


"And follow him?"

"It's a high possibility."

"That's true." I said. "Well, he kind of heard what I said about me moving on and meeting a new guy, so he played the part to get Riku to let go."

"Did he say why he bothered?"

"Ah, no." I answered. "But he did mention that he wouldn't just stand and do nothing when someone needs help." I smiled brightly at Ino. "And he actually insulted Riku's intelligence."

"How so?" Ino asked me with a wide grin.

After what Riku did to me and had me experience, Ino began to despise him a lot.

"He told Riku to search for the meaning of 'former' in the dictionary if 'ex' was too much for his brain to handle." I giggled, and Ino laughed.

"So, did he ask you out?"

"Who?" I asked, playing dumb.

Ino smirked. "You know perfectly well who I mean."

"No I don't."

"I'm talking about Sasuke." I saw how her brows wiggled suggestively. "Rawr."

"Ino, I'd appreciate it if you stop giving him nicknames."

"Keep dreaming." She said, and I knew for a fact that when it comes to guys, Ino always has a nickname for them. It's just a bit weird for me since Sasuke earned so many already with just one look from Ino.

"No, he didn't." I said, answering her question. "I doubt he'd make a move just like that."

"Then doubt if you want, but I bet he will one day."

"And that day will be when..?" I snorted. "The day when Hinata's dear ol' Naruto gives up on ramen..?"

"Miracles have happened."

"Not all the time." I reminded. "Anyway, is it alright if I help out here a bit? I get bored staying at home." I confessed, eyeing the multiple flowers on sale for the day.

"Sure. We actually need all the help we can get." And Ino handed me a white apron, just in time since a customer arrived.

I sighed and waited for Ino and her mother to finish locking up the store before taking my phone out. I opened the message and my eyes widened upon seeing the name of the sender.

"Oh my god!"

Ino was quick to get to my side and peek over my shoulder. Next thing I knew, I heard her squealing in excitement, and I tried to stop her since Mrs. Yamanaka had given us a weird look.

"Ino! Don't jump to conclusions!"

"Oh come on forehead!" she said. "He just asked where you are, it could mean he's planning something! Probably ask you out!"

"No, Ino. It means that he wants to know if I made it home safely."

"And that doesn't mean anything?" she countered with a raised brow and a smirk.

"It shouldn't." I said, hoping that it really meant nothing. I'm not ready for another relationship just yet. In fact, I don't think I'd want to be in a relationship again. Sighing, I replied to Sasuke, telling him that I was still by the flower shop, waiting for my dad to pick me up.

"It's late Sakura, are you still going to wait for your father?" Mrs. Yamanaka asked me, her voice laced with so much worry.

I gave a reassuring smile to her. "My dad is working overtime, but he'll be here."

Ino sighed and placed her hands on her hips. "No way Sakura. We'll just take you home to be safe."

"No, really, it's fine!" I said, trying to convince them.

Our ears picked up the sound of a motor engine, and we turned to see a motorcycle stop a few feet away from us. It was purely black, with a few tints of silver, and the rider had a black tinted helmet on, so we weren't sure if it was someone we knew.

I can only hope that it wasn't Riku or any of his friends…

My heart started skipping a beat when the new arrival took off his helmet to reveal the next model of- oh for-! Ino's rubbing off on me!

"Hop on. I'll take you home."

"Eh? But… but…" I stammered. "Sasuke, you've done enough already." I said, smiling a bit.

"Sakura, don't be rude!" Ino said from behind me, pushing me forward as I panicked and stopped, looking up to see how close I was to Sasuke, and instantly, my face turned red, even if he just blinked and stared at me before shrugging and putting on the helmet over my head.

Oh god..! I'm wearing his helmet!

"Sasuke right? My name's Yamanaka Ino!"

I saw how Ino offered her hand to Sasuke who took it, introducing himself as well before turning to me. "Get on." He said one more time before starting the engine. He gave one nod to Ino and her mother who waved and smiled before turning to me, making sure I was already on the bike. "Is it your first time?" he asked.

"Y-Yeah…" I stammered. "So…"

I tried to fix my long hair, but he suddenly spoke: "Hang on." and I quickly wrapped my arms around him when he took off. "Don't you need a helmet?" I yelled over the roaring sound of the engine.

"I'll be fine." He said, loud enough for me to hear.

How sweet of him to think of my safety first. I swear; if I hadn't vowed to not fall in love again, I would've seriously melted right now.

As he expertly drove the bike, I told him the directions to my house, saddened by the fact that we've finally reached our destination.

"Thanks again." I told him when I removed the helmet and got off. "I really ought to pay you back."

"No need to." He said, taking the helmet from me. "Just don't run into trouble all the time." He said with a smirk.

"Yeah, yeah." I grinned. "So, bye." I didn't move from my spot, and neither did he.



He smirked. "Go inside."

"Eh? I'll wait for you to leave."

"No. Go inside, and then I'll leave once you're in."


"If I leave now, there's no telling when that ex of yours will suddenly come out of nowhere."

He's right. So I nodded and bid him a good night before turning to enter my house. I quickly rushed to the window to see him put on his helmet and leave. Why did I meet him only now..? If I've met him before Riku, then maybe, just maybe, we would've been together…


I turned to see my mom walking towards me with an amused grin.

"Who was that boy?"

"A friend." I said with a smile.

"You kinda crept up and took me by surprise."

To be continued…

December: Under the Mistletoe

"Oh, hi!" I greeted. "Merry Christmas..!" I was about to leave but Ino called my name, causing Sasuke and I to turn to her, seeing her with Shino. "Ino!" I smiled. "Hey Shino..!"

"Do you realize where you two are standing?" Shino asked.

I noticed Ino's grin, and when I looked at the ground and saw nothing, I turned back to raise a brow at them, only to have my eyes widen when she pointed something above my head. I turned, seeing Sasuke eyeing the mistletoe that hovered over us, and my face turned a deep shade of red for that.

A/N: So… tell me what you think. And no, I will not update this fic for the month. I just need your feedbacks. I have to finish this story first before the deadline. My next update will probably be on Biohazard and/or Ai no Tsubasa. If you have questions, feel free to ask, and I shall answer them when I can. I really need your opinions. I used the title based from the song "Say it Again" by Marie Digby. I read the lyrics and concluded that it would be perfect for Sakura in this story. So for every chapter, two lines from the song will be taken to start and end a chapter.