The heart is the place where we live our passions. It is frail and easily broken, but wonderful resilient. There is no point in trying to deceive the heart. It depends upon our honesty for its survival. - Leo Buscalgia (Born for Love)

"Uchiha-s-san," A muted voice unassumingly spoke; a bento box clutched firmly in her hands, while the corners of her lips faintly upturned indecisively at the brooding ebony locked male that stood before her.

"Hn," Was the monotonous reply, as he shifted his gaze to the timid Hyuga. Stepping off the large, rocky boulder he had been squatting on, he sauntered to her direction, an arctic frown emblazoned on his flawlessly attractive features. "...you're late." He commented, giving her a formidable glare that spoke in volumes, seemingly saying, 'It better not happen again'.

"Ano..." Her gaze instinctively shifted from the fixed stare. "U-Uchiha-s-san, I-I... Gomen."

He deepened the glare, "What the fuck, did I say about that stutter, Hyuga?" The tone of his voice reverberated low and seemingly vital.

Hinata twitched a bit. She really wasn't fond of the rather course language the Uchiha exercised around her. However, she really couldn't dissent to it either; he intimidated her too much to do so.

Ever since Sasuke had returned to the village, she had always made sure to keep a cautious distance from him. It only made sense to do so, since he hardly tolerated anyone.

She unenthusiastically remembers his and Naruto's ultimate mêlée, the battle that would influence not only both of their fates, but probably the rest of the world's as well. Though she had been wholly unnerved and skeptical of all the strife and struggle to save the precarious Uchiha, she didn't question Naruto's judgment. The blonde had, of course, saved her, and had given, even her, a reason to live; so maybe he was capable of doing the impossible?

To those naive of the past, it could easily be depicted as a battle to the death; a fight that could only produce a single victor. Hinata was almost sure that if Sasuke had won, he would have undoubtedly ended Naruto. The implacable ire in his deadly crimson eyes spoke volumes to her, as she witnessed him charging deliriously at Naruto. Of course, this was all in her humble opinion. However she was convinced that if Naruto won, he would have spared Sasuke's life. Thankfully and miraculously, the outcome was in favor of her favorite ramen – loving blonde. She had never been so happy.

Conversely, Sasuke hadn't been as thankful and grateful as she had predicted the Uchiha to be. He was angry, pissed, when he had woken up from his comatose state after a month to discover he had been lying, alive, in a hospital bed, and in Konoha. He seemed to be in a path of pure destruction, he was humiliated at the fact that Naruto hadn't killed him. Since Naruto had been in the room next to his, they had a 'minor' clash till Tsunade had, fortunately, interrupted. He was placed under severe detainment for the first year. After he was allowed to step out onto the village, and recently missions. She wasn't too intimate with the political aspects of his situation, but she held a dull perception that villages had stopped demanding for his immediate execution for his precedent transgressions, thanks to Naruto's, and curiously, the Kazegake's pleadings.

Subsequent to all of this, he had seemed to return to normal. If you called menacing, contemptuous, and ruthless normal. Than, yes, definitely normal.

Hinata's face heated, "A...Ah, er, g-gomen... I just wanted..." She fixed her eyes on the wrapped bento box grasped in her hands. "...I made us a bento... Gomen, i-it won't happen again." She mildly apologized, her head low; her hair mercifully shielding her eyes from his cold glower.

Sasuke grunted, and aggravatingly shoved his hands into his pockets, while attempting to restrain an annoyed snarl.

Right now, he contemplated begrudgingly; he shouldn't be here, 'training' this weakling. But that stupid woman seemed hell bent on interfering with his life, giving him no alternative.

The Hyuga was to be his partner for this – this tournament, and he needed to prepare her it, because from what he'd deduced, she needed it, badly. And more importantly, he was not about to be made a fool by anyone, especially by this feeble and week – willed girl.

"As you guys may have already heard, there will be a tournament held for all the major Hidden Villages, as an act on trying to form stronger alliances between our neighbors. We hope with this tournament that we can spur cultural trade as well as to start fixing the economic depression that has plagued the villages. This year, Konohagakure will be hosting it." The strawberry haired woman grinned, surveying the sizeable room filled with talented shinobi. "I was required to select thirty – two shinobi of Chunin or Jounin level. Of course I picked the best." The devilish smirk on her face excavated, while she decided to lay her chin on her intertwined fingers. "However, instead of the predictable one versus one almost all tournaments hold, we've decided to go with teamwork. So everyone will be paired up, resulting in sixteen teams." She paused. "Ah... I've already selected everyone's partner. So... no need to thank me."

"Wha - ?" Almost everyone gasped at the sudden announcement. Some stood up from their seats in protest.

"Tsunade-baachan!" Naruto exclaimed, practically flying from his chair. "That's not fair! You suck at picking partners, take it from past experiences with your gambles! Plus, you always give me the worst person to work with!"

"Shut up, Naruto!" Sakura hissed, while vehemently pulling the vociferous blond back down to his seat.

"Thank you Sakura." Tsunade thanked her pink – haired pupil, who nodded in response. She averted a glare to Naruto's direction that sent chills down his spine, "I want to develop the teamwork everywhere. This is not only for the other villages, but for our own benefit as well. Most likely you will be partnered with people you are not habituated to working with. So, obviously, you will not be paired with your genin teammates, nor with people you are frequently sent on missions with." She coughed in to her hands. Shizune handed her a manila colored folder. "I'll start naming the teams now."

Sasuke stood in the farthest corner of the room, his arms crossed around his chest while he held an expressionless mask that was always worn in seamless condition. Though he was curious as to why he was allowed to participate, since everyone was well aware of his intense hatred for this hell hole of a village. However, he didn't particularly care about the subject; he'd play their little game. As long as they paired him with someone adept enough to take care of themselves, and at least be able to defend themselves. He did not want to have to babysit the entire time. He wasn't a babysitting service after all.

"...Shino and Sakura, Ino and Naruto," Sasuke seemed cynically amused at the blanched expressions that so gracefully embraced his former teammates' faces. "…Anko and Sai ,TenTen and Shikamaru, Neji and Kiba...," The names were being listed off pair by pair; many were astonished, excited, or disgusted with the partner's they were assigned.

There seemed to be a heavy pause before the last two names were called. "...and Hinata and Sasuke." A tensing silence breached the entire room. He saw the said girl's pale eyes widen when her stunned gaze landed on her stoic partner, a shaken expression was openly emblazoned on her normally tranquil face. She seemed on the verge to voice her opinion on the matter; however she was beaten to it.

Kiba was already standing, "Tsunade-sama that is no where near a good idea." Akamaru stood alongside his partner and barked in agreement.

The normally quiet Shino had even decided to speak. "With all due respect Hokage-sama, I agree with Kiba. This is an ill decision on the verge of disaster."

The hazel – eyed women shook off their concerns, "I've thought this through, and it's perfect."

"No!" Everyone turned to look at the outburst. It was the usually stoic Hyuga who was glaring quite formidably at the blond Hokage. "I refuse to accept my cousin partnered with that – that, Uchiha." His voice spewed the word as if it were poison. His silvery eyes shot a lethal stare at Sasuke, who stayed on the wall unmoving to the commotion around him, even if it was about him.

"Neji... calm down." Tsunade spoke evenly, trying to sedate the seething Hyuga. She resisted the urge to massage her temples. Usually, Neji was very agreeable, hardly ever questioning the tasks he was given; however, whenever it came to his younger cousin his dignified demeanor seemed to melt off revealing an unruly protector. She had suspected this of course, and prepared to take on an angered Hyuga. Lots of sake had helped, too, of course, "I think this is best, because it will be on Hyuga and Uchiha terms, and not only that but it would definitely be an interesting combo."

"Than place me with the Uchiha instead," Neji pointed to himself.

Tsunade sighed exasperatedly, "But than Hinata would be placed with Kiba...and she's worked with him before. He was on her genin team. Neji, please calm down."

Sasuke rolled his eyes, the Hyuga was being unreasonable. He acted as if he even wanted to be paired up with the female Hyuga in the first place. His dark eyes narrowed as his gaze subtlety landed on the raven haired konouchi in question who remained muted throughout the ordeal despite her unnerved appearance. He didn't have time to be dragged down by someone underneath him, anyway.

Due to his exceptional memory, he recollected the times back at the Academy where he remembered the Hyuga as a shy, timid, and an arrantly fragile girl. She never spoke when not being spoken to, and had an annoying inclination to stutter and blush at every turn. In terms of fighting, she was probably even worse than the dope had been; she'd always seemed to shy away from conflict. The only decent memory he can evoke was her lack of attraction to him back in those days. The only viable change seemed to be that her azure colored tresses were longer and kept tidy, and that abominable light brown sweater was replaced by a slightly less abominable lavender one.

He stared at her, and for a fleeting moment when her placid eyes met his, she mutely gasped in dread; her face losing its ivory color and bled crimson. He scoffed. His analyst seemed to be dead on.

He decided to finally speak, "Tch... Hyuga, you act like I even want to be partnered with her." He stared at the older Hyuga who glared his colorless eyes at him. But the obsidian eyed male carelessly shrugged it off." He made his way to the door taking the doorknob's handle. "Plus, I'm not even supposed to be here. I'm still a genin after all, its Chunin and higher." He commented.

"Ah, but your strength is on Jounin level, Sasuke. So you're an exception," Tsunade answered.

"But, I never agreed to this. Plus, I refuse to work with someone that is so clearly beneath me," Sasuke spoke, openly glaring at the girl who had caused the commotion. He observed her face turning a luminous red scarlet color, ripe like a tomato. He scoffed. Turning the doorknob, he opened the door. "I guess I should be headed out," He spoke icily, as he made his way out the door.

"If you compete in the tournament, Sasuke, you will no longer be on probation and consistent ANBU watch anymore. You'll be free of the constant surveillance. And if you win, I'll even consider deeming you as trustworthy again, and that you are no longer a looming threat to my village's safety. However, if you don't compete, I'll put you in even more severe supervision."

He halted.

And Tsunade smirked, she knew that this was an offer the Uchiha could not refuse, "I'm listening...," He didn't turn around, refusing to look at the cocky smirk he knew was on the blond Hokage's face.

Satisfied with his answer, she decided to continue with her explanation before she was so rudely interrupted. "The tournament will be held in six months; the time given is specially designed so that each two man cell may learn how to efficiently cooperate with one another, and even more form a bond. That's why everyone is paired with a person that you wouldn't normally associate yourself with. This person would deem possibly the opposite of you, personality and ability wise." Tsunade smiled. "So with your partner, you are to train, and if you don't, it will be clearly evident in the tournament, because not only will you have to watch your own back, but your new comrade's as well. You need to work together. But like I like to say...opposites attract."

Damn that Hokage. If it weren't for the possibility of no longer being under constant ANBU watch, he wouldn't be here. If it weren't for the prospect of his freedom, he wouldn't have to deal with such a nuisance. Damn, that Hokage. He cursed again.

For the seventh time, Sasuke had his lethal katana pierced at the Hyuga's throat pinning her against the bark of a tree; the slightest of movement would have been enough to draw blood. The sensitive area the sword kissed could have easily finished her off, if she allowed blood to be drawn. Sasuke noted that surprisingly she was aware of that as well. The dark haired male sighed, withdrew his katana from her neck, and returned it to its sheath.

Three weeks had already passed, and there hadn't been any progress in the Hyuga's skills. Her movements were frustratingly slow and tentative. Her defensive was curiously shaky (which surprised him since Hyuga's prided themselves on their almost impenetrable defensives). Even worse was her severely lacking in offense. Her strikes lacked, lacked the will to fight, to kill.

She was too frail, shaky, completely insecure, and floppy, to put it lightly. Definitely not the type fit to be a shinobi. He had to admit, he'd seen much more resolve to fight in the academic student. She had no wild prowess like her teammate the Inuzuka, or silent ingenuity like the muted Aburame. She was definitely not a gifted warrior, like her cousin, the protective Hyuga, nor was she like the rest of her prideful family. This girl was just… pathetic.

He would have been satisfied with Sakura, heck even Ino, at least he'd witness the new found strength both konoichi had acquired. At least they could fight, protect themselves.

Sasuke sighed in annoyance, "Your stance is unstable. Any slight movement and you could be taken down easily by the fastest of opponents. You need to be far more forceful when you attack. Also stop being so uncertain. It could cost you." He almost outwardly scoffed. Who was he kidding? He let out another sigh.

"I...I'm sorry, Uchiha-san… I'll try harder." The Hyuga stammered, looking down her hair hair creating a veil from his pointed stare.

"Hn," He replied, as he spared her another quick glance before turning away from her. "Let's take a break." He told her. Not waiting for her to respond, he walked towards a shady sakura tree where she had securely placed the bento boxes that contained their lunch.

The food consisted of different assortments of lightly flavored onigiri, sushi, and some sweet dango (yuck!). Surprisingly, the food wasn't to over – cooked nor under – cooked. It was quite decent. Heck, it was actually kinda…good.

Tch. Like he'd ever admit to that. He picked up another onigiri and ate it smoothly.

"Uchiha-s-san," He looked up at the sound of her willowy voice. "I'm…gomen. I will try harder, b-be better. So I w-won't drag you down… I'll try, I…promise." Her words trembled tersely, as she fidgeted with her fingers while avoiding his eyes.

He looked at her, slight amusement laced in his obsidian eyes at her statement, but continued eating as if nothing ever happened. "Hn, whatever. Just make sure to cook something with tomatoes next time."

He'd take her words into consideration…if she'd look him the eye.

"Teme, how's your trainin' with Hinata-chan?" Naruto asked, while stuffing his face feverishly with ramen.

"Tch. None of your business dope." Sasuke answered coldly, his left eye twitching when he felt the bits of ramen hit his cheeks.

Naruto looked up from the bowl, and pouted. "Aww, why won't you tell me? I'm your best friend, it's my right! 'datteboy!" Naruto affectionately rapped his arms around the brooding male's shoulder, a fox like grin etch on his sun – kissed face. He only received a glare from the Uchiha.

"I do not have a 'best friend', nor do I need one."

Of course, they both knew that was completely fallacious. Naruto, however annoying he was, was his closest companion and comrade. He was the one who had saved him before he'd done something he would have truly regretted. The blonde was, begrudgingly the one person he could relate to the most. They both shared the will to become stronger, and they know the pain of being alone. Sasuke knew Naruto was the only who did not feel sorry for him for his life, because just like Naruto he resented the sympathy. He didn't need the pity – filled stares the villagers and those around him had given him. Though now, those looks are filled with severe abhorrence. Naruto would be able to relate just as well.

So yes, Naruto was his 'best friend', his brother.

But not even in a cold day in hell would he ever admit to that.

"You better not hurt her though," Naruto warned. "Neji is very protective of his cousin, and Hinata - chan is a fragile girl...so even I'd beat you up if you'd hurt her."

Sasuke lifted an eyebrow at his Naruto's remark. This girl was protected by almost everyone. She'd always have people at her beck and call. People who were willing to fight for her, to protect her. This resulted in her almost never having a need to defend herself. No wonder. He thought absentmindedly.

"Hn." Was his answer to that threat.

The blond haired Hokage twirled around in her chair, a self satisfied grin etched on her face.

"So…how was their training this week…? Any progress?" Tsunade asked the woman who stood in front of her, pig in had,

Shizune shook her head regrettably, and handed the Hokage a manila tinted folder. "No. He's still very harsh towards, and their spars end up the same way." She reported. Shizune lifted an eyebrow in. "Tsuande -sama, do you think this is really going to work?"

Tsunade scoffed as if the dark – haired woman in front of her had said something absolutely absurd. "Of course it will! Those two complete each other…they could teach each other a thing or two." Tsunade answered, taking her bottle of sake, and shoved the bitter liquid down her throat. She stopped mid-gulp, and lowered the bottle eyeing Shizune."What are you, questioning me?"

"No! No! Of course not!" Shizune answered in defense, waving her hand in front of her face trying to waver away from the pointed stare. "It's just…"

"Just what?"

She let out a defeated sigh, "Nothing…never mind."

Tsunade really needed to stop meddling in people's love live, it always ended up the same way her gambles and bets did. In Failure. With Shizune always being the one to fix and repair the problematic mess of the predictable loss.

Right now, she needed the sake.

A\N: Well, yeap. Sasuke is a meany bo beany, amiright, amiright? He's a dick T_T But that's how I see him as. Anyway, I know Hinata may seem so weak, but she's not. And the training is through Sasuke's eyes, of course he has unnaturally high expectations (he's more like his father than he'd like to think).Well, Gaara will come in, not very soon, but yeah n;; I think this story will have about twenty or so chapter, possibly more. Who knows where it will lead. I hope Sasuke+Hinata were relatively in character. Anyway, Gaara will have a fighting chance don't worry! I know Hinata is supposed to be older, and much stronger. But I think around someone as intimidating and daunting as Sasuke, her stutter would come out. Not only that but she hardly knows him, even if they've been training for a couple of weeks. Sasuke would of course keep her at arms length. I think I'm going to try my hardest to complete this story. I really liked this idea.

Cough, they're about 18/19 right now, for um reference. Yeah. Review!