Title: When the Fire Burned Out

Description: Sakura is crushed after the second loss of Sasuke, but she won't let anyone see the pain besides her best friend Sai. When her next mission leads her through a crash course of love, then to the pain she's been avoiding, can she depend on her friends to lead her back to sanity?

Rating: M. For sex and some violence.

I kneeled down behind the bush, next to Naruto, watching as the sand-nin walked by.

"Where do you thing they're going?" Naruto whispered loudly. I elbowed him in the rubs, he let out a squeal of pain.

"Obviously they're going to Tsunade's office!" I told him. "This is stupid." I muttered. "If you want to know so bad, just ask Tsunade. She can't resist you."

"She won't tell me." His face fell into a pout.

"Tell you what?" A female voice asked from behind us. We both spun around quickly. Temari was kneeling behind us.

"Nothing, I apologize for my teammates incompetence, Temari-San." I muttered, standing up and stretching.

"WHY ARE YOU HERE?" Naruto demanded, grabbing her by her collar. Her eyes narrowed as she slapped away his hand.

"Watch it kid." Her eyes flashed dangerously. I gave Naruto a warning glance. "I'm here on business."

"What kind of business?" I asked, now curious. She smiled at me.

"Well, curious leaf ninja, that is what I'm here to find out." Temari began to walk away. No sooner did two ANBU officers take her place. Temari turned around, eyes wide. "I didn't tell them anything."

"We know." One said impatiently. "We were listening."

"Now, why don't you hurry along to Hokage-Sama's office." The other suggested.

"Fine, fine. I'm going, see." Temari winked at us and walked off.

"Now you two. Uzumaki Naruto, Haruno Sakura. We have a mission for you."

"A mission?" I raised an eyebrow. "Does this have anything to do with the sand-nin?" I asked.

"Perhaps in the near future." One said nodding.

"SO what's the mission?" Naruto demanded, excited. Since the Akatsuki scare with Gaara, things had been dead in the leaf village.

"we need you to gather—" One started.

"A group of S-class ninja!" Naruto shouted. "All right!"

"Naruto shut up. Please continue ANBU-Sama." I said, nodding at the officer.

"No. Not quite. We want you to gather the following people: Hyuuga, Neji. Hyuuga Hinata. Nara, Shikamaru. Yamanaka, Ino. Tenten and Sai."

"Got it." I said, memorizing the names.

"And hurry. They are all to meet at Tsunade's office with enough supplies to last at least a week, but not so much that it will slow them down. Be there before sunset." I nodded sharply, and the two ANBU officers disappeared.

"Sweet." Naruto shouted. "Let's go!" I followed Naruto up the busy streets, as he fought his way through crowds of people. He suddenly turned around towards me. "Who were we supposed to find again?" I groaned.

"Follow me baka." I shoved in front of him. "We'll go to the Hyuuga residence first. Try to kill two birds with one stone."

"I've done that before!" Naruto shouted, launching into a ridiculous tale that eventually ended when we reached the Hyuuga's front door. I knocked sharply twice, and a small pale-eyed girl answered the door.

"What do you want?" She demanded.

"Hello. I'm Haruno Sakura, this is Uzumaki Naruto. We're looking for Hyuuga Hinata, and Hyuuga Neji?" I said softly, trying to ignore her rude tone.

"Hold on." She disappeared for a moment, Neji and Hinata returned at the door. Neji had his long hair down, wearing a white robe. Hinata was wearing a red dinner dress.

"Sakura. Naruto." Neji said, smiling.

"H-h-hey Sakura. N-n-Naruto." Hinata blushed.

"Wow, Hinata you look gorgeous." I gushed smiling. "What's the occasion?" Her blush deepened.

"It's my b-b-birthday." She smiled.

"Wow. I'm sorry then. Happy birthday! You have a mission." I tried to make my voice sound excited. I failed.

"Oh, t-t-thanks Sakura. What's t-t-he mission?" Hinata asked.

"Well. We don't know yet. We were told to get this group of people they gave us together to meet at Tsunade's office by sundown. You both need supplies to last a week or longer, but not so much that it will slow you down." I paused. "It has to do with the Sand Ninja." I added quickly. Neji nodded calmly. Hinata bit her lip. "Hurry, please."

"Wait." Neji said quickly. "Who else is going, we'll round up some."

"Ino, Shikamaru, Tenten, and Sai." I told him smiling. "Me and baka will get Ino and Sai, if you could get the others…I still have to pack." Neji nodded.

"See you soon." Naruto said smiling. "And happy birthday Hinata!" I thought the poor girl was going to faint, her face was redder than her dress.

"T-t-th-thank you N-Naruto." She bit her lip harder. I grabbed Naruto and spun him around, we began our epic journey to the flower shop to find Ino, and then to Sai's apartment. Sai decided to join us, since it only took him a few seconds to pack, and he joined us as we walked towards Naruto's apartment, and my house. We walked Naruto to the door, reminding him to be there before sunset several times. Sai and I had become very good friends, I was teaching him what was and wasn't socially acceptable. He was a faster learner and over the course of time found many new friends in Kohana. Especially among the female citizens. He was the new Sasuke. I swallowed hard. Sai looked over at me curiously.

"Are you okay?" he asked, holding open the door to my house. I nodded in reply, pushing his name to the back of my mind.

"Yeah. I'm fine." I quickly recovered. "It's starting to get late, I better hurry." I walked into my room, my mom smiled at Sai as he followed me. Sai had come to the door several times with his books about socialization to ask her and I questions. He sat down on my bed watching as I through a small bag onto his lap. "Hold that open please." I tossed in a pair of silk pajamas, my toothbrush, some random make-up, a hairbrush, some sweat pants, gloves, a few tank tops and some personals. I didn't have to worry about Sai being embarrassed, yet at least, we were working on that.

"I have a question." Sai murmured. "About….love." I looked up at him quickly, suddenly afraid the time we spent together had led him in the wrong direction. He saw my wide eyes and laughed. A real laugh. "Not about you and I. That…Hinata girl, pale-eyes. Does she have feelings for Naruto-kun?" I started laughing.

"You're improving." I told him. "And yeah, it's so obvious. I mean, it's sad if you pick up on it and Naruto doesn't." Sai nodded in agreement.

"And…how does Naruto feel about her?" Sai pressed. I wondered why he cared.

"With Naruto it's hard to tell." I explained, "He's so oblivious to the world around him, I don't even know if he notices girls." I laughed at that.

"I don't think that's true. He notices you." I blushed.

"What do you mean?" I asked, turning my back to him to grab a weapons sharpener and a medical kit.

"Now you are the oblivious one. Naruto had a crush on you since the day he met you. You had to have noticed." I bit my lip.

"No…I never did. I was to busy trying to get…his attention. I feel bad now. But, still I do not return the feeling. I love Naruto…more as a brother. Like you." I told him, uncomfortable.

"I understand. You should try to get Naruto to notice Hinata." He smiled at me. I laughed, but it was shallow. I was thinking about Sasuke now. That wasn't good. Distractions.

"I should. Would you be willing to help?" I asked, trying to force a smile. He noticed.

"Your smile doesn't reach your eyes. Are you thinking about him again?" I nodded, biting my lip again. I must have looked like Hinata. He quickly tried to change the subject for my benefit. "Of course I'd be willing to help." I smiled, for real this time. "Are you ready?" He asked, zipping up my bag and handing it to me. I took it and slung it over my shoulder.

"Thanks. Let's go." I helped him up off my bed, and he followed me quietly into the kitchen. "Hey mom, I have to go on a mission, I love you, and I'll see you in about a week." I gave her a quick hug.

"Okay hunny, be careful. You too Sai." She said, waving us out the door. We saw the sun was starting to set so we quickly ran to the Hokage's office.