Warning: Rushed!!

I'm sorry if you spot any errors in this chapter, and that this chapter is insanely late.

My poor excuse: I hardly have any time to write anymore due to school and its unnecessary homework. Ugh.

Please Read and Review! ^_^

Sakura's POV

"A shinobi must never show emotion," Sakura Haruno quizzed herself in order to fight boredom.

After dumping Naruto Uzumaki, Sakura felt as if a giant hole had been ripped into her heart. She didn't know how to deal with it; she didn't even know why she felt this way. After all, she thought she had never loved Naruto. However, the hole in her heart told her otherwise. Sakura could no longer deny it; she did love the knucklehead ninja. In a desperate attempt to fill the gap, she obsessed over Sasuke.

That explained why she sat on a bench next to Konoha's front gate in the middle of the night, reciting the Rules of the Shinobi. She had remembered how Sasuke craved for power. In fact, his purpose in life stemmed from obtaining strength to avenge his clan. She didn't quite understand his hate towards his brother Itachi Uchiha, but she did know that Sasuke had his mind set on killing him no matter what.

In the Forest of Death during the Chuunin Exams, Orochimaru had left Sasuke a promise of power on his neck, the curse mark. The Haruno girl remembered how scared she had been to see Sasuke in so much pain. Yet, he somehow overcame the pain and converted it into a source of power, just what he wanted. Even though the curse mark provided incredible abilities, she feared it. She hated how it turned Sasuke into an unrecognizable person.

As much as Sakura wanted to deny it, she knew that the Uchiha would probably do anything to become stronger. She feared that he would leave Konoha so Orochimaru could grant him more power. If the avenger even had a thought about leaving the village for the snake Sannin, the Haruno girl would be waiting for him at the front gate…

"A shinobi will prepare before it is too late," she continued to recite, slowly lulling herself to sleep.

…whether she would be awake or not happened to be a different story.

Sasuke's POV

Sasuke Uchiha jolted awake, panting heavily. Clenching the sheets, he gritted his teeth and muttered some curse words. After he had undergone Itachi's Tsukiyomi, the avenger had been experiencing nightmares.

In his dreams, he turned into his naïve, eight-year-old self. He watched his mother hum a soft tune while she cooked rice; Mikoto Uchiha served rice with every meal. After carefully pouring in the water, his mother ruffled Sasuke's hair and asked him if he wanted to hear a story while the rice cooked. Of course, he eagerly agreed.

"I remember the first time I met your father," Mikoto smiled, a reminiscent shine in her eyes. "He was in my weapons class at the academy. On the first day of class, we had to demonstrate how far along our techniques with shuriken were. I hated using shuriken; they always slipped from my grip."

"You're great with shuriken!" Sasuke protested, interrupting his mother.

"That's because your father ended up tutoring me," she laughed. "You see, on that first day of weapons class, I accidentally threw the shuriken straight at his head. Luckily, the instructor caught it just in time. From then on, your father hated me. He pulled me aside after class and showed me how to properly hold a shuriken, but he scowled the whole time."

Sasuke knew the rest of the story. The two grew closer to an awkward companionship, not quite friends and not quite enemies. However, they couldn't exist without the other. Fugaku would provide the tutoring lessons to help Mikoto become stronger. In reciprocation, Mikoto gave Fugaku something to work for, and she even made him smile from time to time.

When the two were put on the same Genin teams, their fate had been sealed; they were destined for each other. Unlike Neji Hyuuga, Sasuke never believed in fate, but he made an exception when it came to his mother. She always became starry-eyed when talking about how destiny intertwined with everyone.

The young Sasuke was startled out of his thoughts when he heard a scream. He looked at the owner of the cry, his mother. Her already pale skin had turned white when she saw the person in front of her with a sword in his hand.

"Itachi," she cried when he plunged the blade into her heart, "…why?"

Seeing his mother's limp form on the ground, Sasuke looked fearfully at his older brother.

"You… you killed Mother," Sasuke whispered, not wanting to believe his own words.

"Foolish little brother," Itachi spat, raising his sword in Sasuke's direction.

Right before he was about to die, Sasuke always woke up. He hated how his heart pumped erratically and how he woke up covered in sweat. His nightmares always struck the person he missed most, his mother. After all, even though he craved his father's praise, Sasuke had always been taken care of by his mother. She patched him up when he got hurt, made him his favorite onigiri for school, told him stories, and sang songs to him.

"Damn Itachi," the avenger hissed.

Checking the clock, he shoved the covers off of himself and took a shower. He tried to force all of his thoughts of the Uchiha massacre down the shower drain. After changing into some clean clothes, Sasuke decided to head for the training field to meet Hinata Hyuuga.

Silently running through the streets of Konoha, he wondered why the Hyuuga girl had given up on Naruto Uzumaki so easily. Sasuke could have sworn that she had been infatuated with Naruto. From the context of what he had witnessed, the dobe had actually given Hinata a chance to go out with him. He had asked her on a date, but she declined.

Sasuke didn't even know why Naruto had turned to the Hyuuga girl in the first place. Maybe he had finally screwed up his relationship with Sakura and needed a consolation prize.

Smirking to himself, he arrived at his favorite training field. He was surprised that Hinata had actually arrived before him. She had begun doing push-ups, and it looked like she struggled to get past her seventh one.

"E-eight," she counted to herself. "Just… t-two more until 10."

Her arms started shaking, and Sasuke silently watched as she struggled to finish her set of 10 push-ups. Her determination reminded him of Naruto's. In fact, he suspected that she adopted his own mantra of never giving up. They both had the same motto, so why had she turned him down?

"You're early," the Uchiha stated.

When she realized he had been studying her the whole time, Hinata's face turned a deep shade of red. She collapsed from her push-up position and hurriedly stood up. Her eyes scanned the grass in front of her, and Sasuke peered at the girl in front of him. He thought he had known Hinata Hyuuga before, but it seemed that she surprised him all of the time.

"Sasuke-san, I… I wanted t-to ask you something," she said quietly as she poked her index fingers together.

He gave her a look that told her to go on.

"Um… could… could y-you…," she stuttered and took a big breath before blurting out, "could you help m-me with my shuriken aim, please?"

Sasuke could almost wince from the irony; his father helped his mother with her shuriken aim in the story. Hinata greatly reminded him of Mikoto Uchiha. They seemed so alike in so many aspects. He knew that his mother was gone forever, but, somehow, seeing Hinata helped fill the gap a bit. It almost made him sick to think that way, but he shoved his thoughts aside and nodded his head at the Hyuuga girl.

"Hit the trunk," he ordered as he gestured to the closest tree.

Hinata smiled in thanks and pulled out a throwing star. She tossed it at the tree, and it landed high in the branches.

He didn't want to think of the fact of how her accuracy was just as terrible as his mother's.

Hinata's POV

Hinata Hyuuga didn't want to look weak in front of her tutor, but she finally asked, "Can we t-take a break, please?"

Her arms felt dead-tired from throwing multiple shuriken during the past hour. With Sasuke's aid, her aim had improved quite a bit; TenTen would have been proud. With that thought, Hinata remembered how TenTen had hurt herself in order to get Neji to realize his love for her. Perhaps if Hinata inflicted pain upon herself, maybe…

…no. That technique would never earn any respect from Sasuke. After all, Hinata didn't only want to be loved. She also wanted to be respected. That was why she had turned down Naruto.

"Sure," Sasuke grunted.

She smiled and lay on the grass, looking up at the stars. One of the constellations resembled a shuriken. The almost-heiress felt tired of the weapon, so she scanned her eyes across the rest of the sky. They landed onto a pair of ebony eyes. Blushing under his gaze, Hinata couldn't put a label on Sasuke's expression, but he seemed troubled.

"Um… a-are you o-okay, Sasuke-san?" she asked.

"Yeah," he muttered.

"You s-seem a little…," she continued, "…sad."

"It's nothing," he snapped. "Who are you to judge me? What do you know about pain?"

Hinata got up and faced him, but she lowered her eyes to the ground.

"My m-mother died w-when I was young," the shy girl said softly. "My father… w-when he looks a-at me, he s-sees her. He h-hates me for it, a-and he thinks I'm w-weak, which is t-true. I-I failed my father, m-my clan, my missions, and the Chuunin Exams. It hurts t-to feel so… worthless."

With her head bent low, Hinata waited for Sasuke's judgment. She had just poured out all of her troubles for him, except for the marriage situation. The almost-heiress couldn't believe she actually trusted him to understand her feelings. After all, Hinata had only been training with him for a couple of days.

"At least you still have a father," Sasuke spat. "Do you know what it's like to wake up in an empty compound, to live in the exact place where everyone precious to you has died? There's a difference between the Hyuuga and Uchiha. One clan is massacred, and one is alive. You don't know how true pain feels like."

The Hyuuga didn't expect him to start crying over her troubles, but a little empathy would have been nice.

"You're w-wrong, Sasuke-san," Hinata whispered. "There are d-different kinds of p-pain. I m-may not understand how y-your pain feels like, but I d-do feel my own kind."

An ominous thunder rumbled across the midnight sky, as if the heavens agreed with the Hyuuga girl. She jumped up slightly in surprise while Sasuke continued to glare at her. Silence engulfed the training field, minus the pitter-patter of the rain. It soaked through her jacket, chilling her to her soul.

"We s-should go now b-before we catch a c-cold," she finally spoke up. "If you w-want, I can bring y-you some more rice-"

"You're not my mother," he stated before disappearing.

Hinata stood in the rain by herself, not even caring if she got sick anymore. She had just destroyed the remnants of any form of companionship she had with Sasuke. For some reason, he wanted to believe he was the only one who was suffering. She wanted to help him, but she met rejection instead.

"I'm s-sorry," she whispered aloud.


"Wahoo! Let's go, Akamaru!" Kiba Inuzuka shouted in the distance.

Team Eight, minus Shino and Kurenai-sensei, were practicing in their training field. Hinata managed to finish a set of 11 push-ups. She possessed terrible upper body strength, but at least her flexibility made up for it. After another agonizing set of push-ups, she rolled over and took a five second break.

However, a navy flower caught her eye. It was short but had petals the size of kunai. For some reason, the Hyuuga girl had a strange urge to touch the petals. She picked the flower and plucked off the first petal, which felt like silk. She sadly pictured Sasuke's face in her mind.

"H-he loves me," she chanted and plucked off a second petal. "H-he loves me not."

Hinata repeated the process until one petal remained on the flower.

"He loves m-me," she said, disappointed, "not."

"Do you love him?" a voice asked.

Hinata looked up and saw none other than Shikamaru Nara. The Nara looked at her with bored eyes. He slouched with his hands shoved in his pockets. However, she knew that behind his lazy exterior was a genius. Ino, on the other hand, declared he was more lazy than smart. She constantly complained on how he never took her on "real dates."

The shy girl didn't know much about dating. The only exposure she had gotten was when she watched Naruto and Sakura make out behind Ichiraku's. Of course, she knew that Kurenai-sensei and Asuma-sensei also went on dates; she had seen them hold hands before. Other than that, dating was a mystery to her.

The Hyuuga girl wondered whether eating dinner at Sasuke's house counted as a date even though they hadn't kissed or held hands. In fact, they barely spoke to each other. The only eventful part of the dinner happened to be when Sasuke gave her the Uchiha crest necklace. Though, he only gave it to her so she could legally enter the Uchiha compound, not because he actually liked her.

"I'm not s-sure what love f-feels like anymore," the shy girl finally admitted to Shikamaru.

"Well, it's a drag," he yawned, "because you want to be with the person even though they're troublesome."

Hinata smiled shyly and asked, "Do y-you think Ino-chan's troublesome?"

"She made me work her shift at the Yamanaka Flower Shop yesterday," Shikamaru groaned. "I also have to take you on a mission today."

Apparently, Kiba and Akamaru had been listening in on the conversation. The two appeared in front of them, covered in sweat and mud. Hinata crinkled her nose; they both smelled like dog. Of course, Kiba would probably take that as a compliment. He prided over how he was close to canines.

"Mission?" Kiba grinned. "Finally! It's been forever since Team Eight's been on one!"

"You're lucky; I've been working non-stop ever since I've become a Chuunin," Shikamaru sighed. "How troublesome."

"At least you're a Chuunin now," Kiba argued. "I hate being stuck doing nothing without a leader; I wish I could just lead the missions myself. It sucks, right Akamaru?"

Akamaru, who sat on top of Kiba's head, barked in agreement.

"So what's our assignment?" the Inuzuka asked.

"Actually, I'm just taking Sasuke and Hinata with me," the lazy ninja yawned. "Ino wants them to bond during the mission."

At the mention of Sasuke, Hinata's smile fell. She wasn't sure if she wanted to see him so soon. He was probably still angry with her. She wasn't quite sure how she upset him; she didn't know why he wanted to suffer by himself. When the Hyuuga girl became sad, she didn't want to burden anyone with her down mood, but it felt nice when someone cared for her.

"Fine, I guess Akamaru and I'll keep training here," the Inuzuka mumbled.

Kiba and Akamaru jumped into the trees and started practicing Fang Over Fang.

"I guess we'll have to find Sasuke now," Shikamaru sighed.

With that said, Shikamaru and Hinata departed the training field in search for the Uchiha. They wandered throughout the Hidden Leaf Village. After a couple of minutes, they decided to split up. The Hyuuga girl remembered the necklace hiding behind her hitai-ite; she had legal permission to go inside the Uchiha compound.

Hinata took off running to the remote corner of Konoha. She thought she saw a depressed Naruto Uzumaki when she passed Ichiraku's, so she instantly looked the other way. Ever since she rejected him yesterday, the Hyuuga girl didn't want to think of the knucklehead ninja that much. Pushing the unwanted thoughts out of her mind, she ran faster. It took her five minutes to reach the compound. She hesitated for another minute, and then she walked inside, clutching the Uchiha crest on her necklace.

"Sasuke-san? A-are you h-here?" she called out.

Hinata spotted the house in the compound that Sasuke resided in. She walked up to it and knocked lightly on the door twice.

"S-sasuke-san?" she said softly.

"Did you need me?" a voice asked.

Startled, she turned around and found the Uchiha in front of her. After a small squeak of surprise, she felt glad that she had found him. She wasn't sure if he was still angry; his face had been set into an emotionless expression.

"Y-yes," she whispered.

She needed him in more ways than one.