popping cherries | by kwizten | JAPANESE GUM

it's not like I'm a slut or that I really like to fuck
I just want every boy I see to walk away with part of me

She is fifteen years old when she loses her virginity.

At first she worries she is too young, but then it hits her that she is a kunoichi, and a kunoichi always learns about maturity well before anyone else. Life for her has never meant to be full of rainbows and sunshine, even though she lives in Konoha where the world is always green. Like all ninja, she can't predict when she will be ambushed next, or sent on a mission that isn't ranked high enough, or if she will be in the wrong place at the wrong time and have to cut her plans of old age and retirement short. So when she is fifteen years old and her cherry is popped, she lets it slide off her shoulders and decides she has done nothing to be ashamed of at all.

In fact, her being a kunoichi ends up having quite an influence on her over the years. Over time, she finds she can only be understood by other shinobi, and that's probably why she never really bonds with civilians outside of hospital and mission duties, though they do try to make an impression sometimes. Occasionally she wonders if it is rude of her to dismiss the civvies so easily, but deep down she knows this is just how things are. No one but a shinobi can know what this life is like, after all, how dangerous and spontaneous and really very traumatizing it all is, and she finds it too hard to explain otherwise. That said, she supposes it makes sense why the only guys she ever sleeps with are shinobi.

It is already Autumn when she becomes a woman, the weather just warm enough to stay out late. It isn't long ago that the new Team Seven last found and fought Sasuke, so he is still fresh on her mind. She figures she is over him by now, but it doesn't make seeing him any easier, especially when he seemed so eager to kill her. To escape these thoughts, she invites Naruto for a drink, but he is sulking in his own way, probably even more upset than she is about it all, and for once, he turns her down. Always the independent one, she figures she still needs something to take her mind off things anyway, and goes off alone into the belly of the drunken beast.

Though this establishment is shinobi-run with lax rules and a lower drinking age, she still isn't old enough to buy alcohol yet, so she sulks into her glass of sparkling water, already used to the smell of the place due to her constant presence in Tsunade-shishou's office. She gazes into her glass in just the right way and can see a reflection, a dark shape coming closer. He is wearing his Chuunin uniform and looks as lazy as always. He barely even looks at her when he slumps onto the stool to her right, but as the night goes on, she notices his stare lingering a beat longer than usual. And knowing Shikamaru, this beat is hardly accidental.

He buys her her first drink because he is sixteen and can, and they talk about everything except Sasuke and Asuma-sensei, who has been dead for two months. Eventually she asks him to come over to hers because her daddy is dead and her mother is staying with her great-aunt while her memory slowly fades. He accepts her offer, even though she is hardly sensual about it and doesn't give any reason as to why he should. She doesn't know what's come over her, why she makes such an offer to him at all, why she has such a sudden urge for a boy to be in her home in the first place. It isn't until he is actually there stroking her comforter that she realizes she is lonely.

The image of Sasuke pops into her mind, and she acknowledges that he is still beautiful. He also still doesn't care about her whatsoever. She is angry, frustrated, because she truly believes she has changed from the annoying girl he once knew, and why wasn't he surprised at the new her, even just a little? It is weeks after this encounter, of course, but she is still hurting, still insecure as always, and she figures it's about time someone really sees her. Shikamaru tilts an eyebrow at her, the steady calculations in his gaze observing everything about her to the most minute detail, and she decides he is the one who is really truly looking.

And so Nara Shikamaru is her first.

(She later says this statement to herself and laughs at how strange it sounds, even to her own ears, because shit, Shikamaru has always been the laziest person on the planet and who would have guessed he'd be capable of an experience so enlightening?)

Even though it is their first time, they both know what they're doing, what they're getting themselves into. They aren't drunk, even though it's her first glass of sake and he's skinny as hell and should really be a lightweight. But even without the liquid courage, they are confident and devilish, like two stupid kids living on impulses rather than strategy. Neither of them are naive to what's happening, but even so, their sleeping together is still partly an experiment.

At first she thinks they have done something wrong because she feels no pain. She doesn't bleed or have trouble walking the next day, not really, and nothing bad happens despite not using protection (she figures her medical skills could double as a morning-after pill, which, thank goodness, turns out to be correct). It occurs to her that perhaps she is being too careless about it all, but for some reason it never bothers her too much because she is a grown-up (she believes) and has tapped into her real inner power.

When she tells Ino about Shikamaru, her blonde friend just laughs. It takes forever to convince her that yes, she did sleep with her teammate, and yes, he is actually pretty great in the sack. It doesn't matter that he is a lot lankier than other shinobi, and more angular, and more serious, and more troublesome...

Ino tells her to ask him out, but she never does. She isn't delusional enough to think there is any romantic interest involved. He takes something of hers, and she takes something of his, and as far as she's concerned, that is fair enough. He doesn't seem to be boyfriend material anyway, she figures, since he doesn't seem to like doing anything, and a man without passions isn't the man for her at all.

However she looks at it, they have both used each other, and neither of them are ashamed to deny it. Their encounter is a distraction from the real world, from Sasuke, from Asuma-sensei, from the way the entire shinobi world is getting scarier and more dangerous and really a bit too quiet lately. For that one night, nothing else matters.

And with that reassurance, her beast is unleashed.

After Shikamaru, there is Neji. A shock, clearly, but she supposes she has always liked surprising people.

Something about Neji reminds her of Sasuke. Perhaps it's why she starts paying such close attention to him, this prodigy who is so similar to her past love but also so different. These differences are probably his biggest attraction: his willingness to open up to people, his loyalty to his country, his ability to actually smile if he tries hard enough. In her mind, he is the Sasuke she's always dreamt of, the Sasuke her childlike-self fantasized of and wished for but never quite got.

And then one day, she finds out Hyuuga Neji has quite the crush on her.

He follows her around sometimes - in a sweet way, of course. He walks her home after her hospital shifts, even when the sun's still out, even though the Hyuuga complex is on the opposite side of Konoha from the cheap residential district she lives in. After a few months of this treatment, he finally brings himself to kiss her goodnight, and she over-analyzes it as girls do – though, if she's honest, it probably doesn't help that she has Ino on her side to ask too many questions. A few farewell kisses and one active imagination later, Sakura finally invites him inside.

Neji has never done this before, but she doesn't mind. On the contrary, she is empowered because she knows he has chosen her, her among all the others. And for once she is actually more experienced in something than the infamous Hyuuga prodigy, and how many people could say that?

She finds his kekkai genkai creepy and his curse mark strange, so she avoids them both by tilting her head into the pillows and shutting her eyes and unconsciously picturing the serious, stoic Sasuke above her instead. Moving her head back turns out to be a smart move – even though her imagination's betrayal isn't quite as good an idea – since Neji seems to like the way she looks when she does it. Apparently she can be sensual even on accident.

She takes it as a compliment that Neji never regrets giving himself up to her, and she sure as hell doesn't regret it either. The fling is fun and short and quick, and soon they realize they have no true, honest feelings for each other, just a bit of sexual tension, and she pushes him towards Tenten during a group outing instead. It bothers her a little that such a long courtship never ends up going anywhere, but after a few days of sulking, she realizes there is nothing to be upset about because she isn't exactly looking for a boyfriend anyway.

She simply doesn't have the attention span for it.

Months later, there is Rock Lee.

Once in a while, Sakura second-guesses herself. She wonders if she is too young to be so comfortably experienced in this way, but she pinches herself and decides it's fine. It's not like she sleeps with different guys one right after another, anyway — there are always huge gaps in-between, for months at a time or even over a year, in some cases. But she can't deny that her mind has become sex-obsessed, the Icha Icha collection keeping her company during every dry spell. She realizes her sexual awakening is a good thing, a powerful thing, and she shouldn't be ashamed to love when men lavish her with attention and smoldering gazes. This makes her feel good about herself for once, good because she can hold onto their emotions even after she stops caring for them. It is a guilty pleasure she just can't shake. She is seen as the pretty, kind medic to the public, but admired as the shallow, exotic temptress in private. It is enough to hook her. Gone is the emotional Sakura who lags behind her friends. Gone is the Sakura who is "weak" and "boring." With her newfound femininity, she is finally the woman she has always wanted to be.

So once she realizes no one's been looking at her like that lately, she becomes desperate. Then Lee approaches her as usual, and for once she takes him seriously, even though he hasn't given any indication that he is quite as serious.

At first she hesitates and wonders if it's okay to be involved with the teammate of her last conquest, but when she confides in Neji about it, he takes the blame off her hands. After all, Lee's held a torch for her for years – he'd always known that – and although Lee's feelings are little more than a nostalgic crush by now, Neji knows it's his own fault for betraying his friend's trust from the get-go. In any case, he reasons, it's not like Lee's been blind to the closeness between Hyuuga and Haruno over the past many months, even after their courtship downgrades to friendship and Neji shacks up with Tenten instead.

Her emotions are wild and she is filled with the desire to be back on top of the food chain. Lee is perfect for her ego, and Neji says there's no harm in it, so it must be okay. He says it all with such assurance that she takes it at face value and lets the chips fall as they may, guilt be damned.

The experience is an interesting one, that's for sure. Lee is known for his stamina on the training field, so it is no surprise that once he gets started in her room, it takes a while for him to stop. He moves slowly and stumbles the first time, but she knows it's just because he doesn't really know what he's supposed to do, even though he's older than she is. Luckily for him, she has enough knowledge for the both of them. She teaches him what she likes best, and then he performs – performs well. She finds it awkward to look into his buggy face when it lights up like that, because the intensity of his gaze is a bit too much, but she at least appreciates the stone-hard body beneath the annoying green jumpsuit. She is especially thankful that he isn't incredibly loud during the process, and is even happier when he doesn't scream to everyone about what they've done. Except for Ino, who she tells everything to, and Neji, who encourages her in the first place, there is no one to judge them and no one to pressure her. It is just a one-night stand, after all, that goes nowhere and ends quickly.

Even though Neji tells her not to worry, she still finds she's ashamed of herself. Lee is not the first person she has taken advantage of, but he is the one she feels most guilty about. She knows he is only considered because of her own personal need, and it is then that she realizes she is becoming shallow, two-faced even. Just the thought of Lee makes her stomach sink. He's never deserved a treatment like this.

It's a relief when he runs into her after the fact, not knowing the extent of her silent guilt, and still treats her the same as always. The only change in him is the change that comes with experience, a blanket he wears over himself now that he is a man. But despite his newfound confidence – an awakening of his own – the memory haunts her conscience like a plague.

For a while.

But not long after, she shrugs it off. It isn't something she's proud of, but she can see no other option. Guilt is something she is terrible with; she hates her trashy self almost as much as she hates her fangirl self, maybe even more so because she is supposed to know better this time around. It isn't something she can live with. So with as much inner-strength as she can muster, she convinces herself that the night with Lee was fun, was what she wanted, was something they both wanted. She turns another boy into a man, and she is powerful and wonderfully manipulative, and she has won someone's heart yet again, even just temporarily.

She knows it's a waste of time to bring herself down by something like self-loathing when she can just improve with self-confidence instead. Reputation be damned. Haruno Sakura is an adult now.

She tries so hard to believe this is true.

She convinces herself that she has recovered from this moment of weakness, and is with one last person before her twentieth birthday. If anyone is to find about him, she knows they will not believe her because fuck, it's hard for her to believe too. But it is true and it does happen and she knows deep in her heart that she wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Her fourth is Sabaku no Gaara. The Kazekage, for god's sake.

She is thrust into a solo mission in Sunagakure because there is an epidemic. A few citizens have died already, but the disease is still new, still fresh, still only partially dangerous though it has the potential to grow worse. After weeks of research and sleepless nights, she finally drafts a vaccine, and just in time because Gaara is one of the many infected.

Many praise her for saving their dear kage, but if she's being honest, she knows she's barely contributed to his recovery herself. Perhaps there is still a little of Shukaku left in him, even though it's been over four years since the extraction, or maybe he just has an iron-clad immune system on his own. In any case, the worst is over for him quicker than it is for the others, and she puts him on bedrest while he recovers fully. In addition, with the Suna hospital handling her new vaccine on their own, she is instead asked to extend her stay and act as his own personal medic.

She flushes and hides her grin at the new assignment. Though he once threatened and terrified her way back when, he now entices her almost completely. For years now she has been intrigued by his strength, his power, his growth, his gentleness, his alabaster skin and copper hair and dark-rimmed eyes. For a psycho-killer, she thinks, he is really rather attractive. She has been a personal medic before, and she knows how often she will get to lay her hands on him throughout their weeks together in his recovery room.

Thankfully, it seems he is aware of her touches too.

It is a twisted plus that the sickness in Suna makes its victims sweat so profusely. The more she watches Gaara trying to catch his breath, sweat clinging to him from head to toe, the more she desires him. They spend day after day together, talking and smiling and touching innocently and glancing at each other from the corners of their eyes, at least when he's not feeling too ill to do so. There is something between them, some sort of spark that is impossible to ignore, and she admits to herself that she hopes to seduce him, despite his political status and serious countenance and sickly demeanor. And to kill two birds with one stone, she feels she can finally redeem herself this way, redeem herself for the foolish behavior with Lee and rid herself of that burden for good, because this time she truly does like Gaara, and she wants to know what it's like to really love someone again. She no longer cares for the one-night stands that mean nothing but insecuity.

One day during his recovery, she leans close to wipe his brow, but lingers on his "ai" tattoo as though the word has a hold on her, which it does when he's near. He apparently likes the way it feels because he grabs her wrist and pulls her down for a kiss.

He gets better just a few days later, an almost complete recovery, and during his final check-up, he asks her to dinner. She goes, naturally, and is surprised at how much she enjoys it. When she thinks about it, she hasn't really dated around before, and a part of her feels she doesn't deserve this chance now. But though Gaara isn't what she calls social, he has a way about him that she likes. And she isn't quite ready to abandon their connection that easily.

A little time passes, but a lot of things change. Of all the men she sleeps with, he quickly becomes the only one to build a relationship with her. A real, true, honest relationship. There's a part of it that terrifies her, but she knows she won't be in Suna for too long, and she doesn't have time for hesitation.

The villagers gossip when they see them together, but are polite enough because he is the Kazekage and a beacon of hope. They love their kage, but while they appreciate her for her medical prowess and social graces, she is still a foreigner and therefore a mystery. His siblings fully support them, however, and somehow she feels right at home.

One thing she finds odd is how long it takes for her to finally sleep with him. She has always pursued others for simple sexual gratification, to indulge in her addiction of stealing virginities and feeling desired. But this time it's different. She really likes this one, really connects with him on a different level, and she is afraid to ruin everything by taking something of his that she can never give back, because that is something she only does with boys who mean nothing. But Gaara doesn't mean "nothing." He isn't "everything" either, but he sure as hell is "something."

She does whatever she can to postpone that final step, but she knows her stay in Suna isn't infinite, and a big part of her yearns to be with him before it's too late and she's gone. She tries to hide her conflicting emotions, but Gaara is more intuitive than she gives him credit for. He is, after all, a man now, with desires much like hers.

One night she lays on his bed, and he leans over her and holds her like she will disappear if he doesn't. His mouth becomes more attentive, his touches sure but trembling, but she stops him despite herself. She knows what he's been through, after all, as both a child and an adult, and she knows he has never been with a girl before in any way until now. And with her history, she knows he is getting into something risky.

So she warns him.

She tells him she isn't going to be around forever, that she's going home soon. She admits she doesn't love him and that he doesn't love her either, and that sex doesn't mean that they do. It takes a while to explain the situation to him, especially because she doesn't want to say the wrong thing and push him away. He has always been sensitive about the word etched into his forehead, after all, and is still trying to figure out what it means. But after long discussions and lingering touches and deep green gazes meeting across the sheets, they come to terms with it all and make the leap they've been craving.

And despite the expiration date, it is so, so perfect.

They have enough time to be together a handful of times more, but almost too quickly, it is time for her to leave. He entwines their fingers together at the Suna gates and looks like he's not ready to say goodbye, but they both know it must be done and break up anyway.

It hurts, but she knows he's done plenty enough for her. He's helped her love herself again, or at least helped her forgive herself for all the stunts she's been pulling since she was fifteen, even though they still resonate in her mind like a reel of film. But the confidence in her has returned, the good kind of confidence, not the sleazy, man-eating confidence of the past few years. He shows her there are more important things than that. She is supposed to be a medic, after all, an honorary kunoichi of the Hidden Leaf, and she should know by now that sex cannot buy her love.

Reluctantly, she leaves him for her city. And she is lonelier than ever when she returns.

She pretends their relationship was simply a dream. There is no one in Konoha to say otherwise, no one here who can attest to her necking with the leader of an entirely different village, and anyway that relationship is too personal to share, too intense of a thing with too emotional an end and she doesn't think she's quite ready to come to terms with that. Instead she decides to take Gaara's lessons and put them to good use – no sense in wallowing in self-pity when she should be sorting her priorities first.

Even so, she never truly forgets.

She swears off sex for a while, stops going to bars and making out with genin and instead keeps her hands to herself and forces her coy glances to shift into indifference. It's a comfort to know that Konoha is running out of inexperienced shinobi, which is her stupid, embarrassing addiction she just can't shake, with no lack of trying.

At moments of weakness, she thinks of Gaara. He is a reminder that she has a heart somewhere in there, that she is capable of real emotion and not just carnal desire, and the more she thinks of him, the more she thinks the next guy won't compare. If there even is a "next guy."

But lo and behold, Gaara isn't her last. But that is a different story, a story she knows she has to come to terms with because if she doesn't, it won't seem real. And god, more than anything in the world does she want it to be real.

She doesn't know why she thinks about her past so often these days. She doesn't know why she's done everything she's done during these last few years. When she thinks about it, she feels like some whore using men to get what she wants. But she knows she isn't really like that, not exactly. There's probably something deeper making her act this way that she can't quite understand yet. She's only 21 years old, still a child in many ways. She doesn't have all the answers.

She supposes she thinks about these things regarding her sex life because they are so important, so very important. All of those men have been preparing her for this moment. If it wasn't for that first night with Shikamaru, she knows she wouldn't have it in her to win Sasuke over. She knows she could never make him fall in love with her otherwise.

Because that's what she's going to do. She's going to make him fall in love with her.

She wonders if she's hesitating because she still hasn't really gotten over Gaara quite yet, not to mention what's been going on between her and Naruto lately. But one thing is for certain: she wants Sasuke to fall hopelessly and completely in love with her. It's what she's lived for ever since he came home a few months ago. It doesn't matter that she doesn't love Sasuke anymore, that she doesn't want him. Maybe it's just her own form of revenge. My she just wants him to know how she felt when he left her alone and turned her away all those years ago. Maybe she just wants him to fight for her.

She wonders if her intentions are too cruel even for a guy like Uchiha Sasuke. But she's only human, and sometimes she thinks it's okay to let herself succumb to selfishness like this. Nobody is perfect, after all. She knows that.

But perhaps it isn't right of her to want to use him, especially because she's always known he had his reasons for leaving them – leaving her – behind, but the desire to throw her lack of interest in his face is just so appealing to her that she finds difficulty dropping it. She's used guys before, of course she has, and it still brings out the ugly side of her that she wants to banish completely. Her gut is telling her not to do this, but Sasuke has hurt her and the village and destroyed her old, honorable way of thinking. She has never been the strongest member of Team Seven, despite her medical knowledge and physical strength, but maybe being able to control Sasuke can be her own way of realizing the extent of her power.

She supposes she needs to do it then. She has the willpower and the experience. She knows how to seduce a guy into bed, and she knows it isn't a stretch to go the next step and seduce a guy into loving her. She knows she has it in her, and with that, she decides to do this no matter what.

She can see Gaara's affectionate gaze in her mind as a reminder to just leave Sasuke be because nothing good can ever come of this, but the will to unleash her inner vixen is too strong. She has to make Sasuke hers, just for the sake of it.

She finds Ino and fills her in on her little adventure, and to no surprise, her friend approves instantly. She is also convinced that he deserves what's coming to him, but she says she wants Sakura to be careful. Sasuke is, after all, an Uchiha, stubborn enough to keep pursuing her even after she leaves him. Sakura knows this is true, but can't bring herself to care. As far as she's aware, that could only make it more exciting. She has always been insecure because of her hair and her forehead and her inability to prove herself, and to feel better about who she is, she feels it wouldn't hurt having someone follow her around like a puppy. She figures it will be even better, knowing that puppy is the cold-hearted Uchiha Sasuke.

She always did love a good challenge. She also loves obtaining what others can't have. Whether it's Shikamaru or Neji or Lee or Gaara, whether it's Naruto or Sasuke, she wants the assurance that she is good enough for something.

Maybe the other kunoichi she knows aren't quite as selfish as she is, but then again, maybe that's okay. She has never been one to blend in, anyway.

That decided, she grins at Ino and steadies her resolve. This is her moment. She is going to change Sasuke's mind in a way she couldn't years ago. Whatever her reasoning, she is going to do it.

Sasuke is going to love her, even if it's the last thing she does.

Disclaimer: MK owns. "Japanese Gum" by Her Space Holiday.

Revised: Sept 25 2015

A/N: One of my pet peeves is when people refer to Sakura as a "cherry" because it makes zero sense – she is named after the flower, not the fruit! Also cherries aren't even pink, yo. Anyway that's why I decided to make a story with an ironic title and a totally different kind of cherry lololololol – okay I'll see myself out.

Also the rest of the story will have a lot more interactions and dialogue, don't worry, kids. This is just a prologue-ish-type-thing.

I'm sorry (but also not) that this chapter sounds kind of trashy! Sakura isn't a loose lady, I swear, just our flawed little antihero. And anyway, sleeping with 5-6 people by the time you're in your early twenties – one of them being your BOYFRIEND – is sooo not a weird/slutty thing...just saying (;

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