Sai still didn't feel like he was fitting into the dynamics of Team Seven, even after all the things Danzou suggested he do, from the impromptu tea party to the impromptu wrestling match to the impromptu camping trip (after the last event failed, Sai vowed to himself to never do anything with the word 'impromptu' attached to it). Still, if he was going to become a functioning part of Team Seven, he had to understand his team mates just a little bit better. Both Naruto and Sakura had very busy and mismatching schedules; it would be easier to follow one of them and study their habits for a short amount of time before moving on to the next one. But who first?

Naruto was both easy and complex, someone whose feelings gave Sai a headache just thinking about them --- but more importantly, he was a guy. Sai could handle guys. He lived with them, trained and studied with them. He was one himself, after all. But how girls worked . . . that was still somewhat of a mystery to him. Sai was not very good with the ladies, remembering how a seemingly innocuous comment a week ago had landed him with Temari's fan lodged in a very private place. All the more reason to keep a closer eye on them in particular.

Which meant Sakura would become the main focus of his studies --- Operation Sakura Watch (no one said Sai was original). He would watch her, study her movements and habits, and hope that they gave him some insight into what made Sakura Haruno who she was. Easier said than done.

Excerpts from Sai's tracking journal:

Day One: Spent half the day finding pencil without broken lead. Took off rest of the day to relax at Ichiraku and people watch. Wonder if Iruka-sensei knows how often he blushes around women.

Day Two: Started following Sakura, keeping record of her daily habits and rituals. Mainly spends time in the hospital, Tsunade's office, flower shop, Ichiraku, chuunin academy. Also, is it normal for girls to go to the bathroom so often? Followup required.

Day Three: In hospital, broken leg. Asking Sakura up front about daily bathroom routine not advised a second time.

Day Ten: Have been keeping eye on Sakura in hospital. Very skilled at medical jutsu, using chakra to heal. Bedside manner needs work. Will invest in ear plugs to avoid another half-hour of her shouting. Just because I left the room to report to Danzou.

Day Twenty-two: Early discharge. Still nowhere on Operation Sakura Watch. Danzou says abandon mission for now; suspect he is jealous for some reason. Very odd.

Sai closed his journal and sighed. Day Twenty Four now and still he had no idea how Sakura ticked, not really. He knew she was loud and not afraid to speak her opinion, but he knew that already. Hell, he had often been on the receiving end on many of Sakura's rage fests. Now what?

He decided against his better judgment to ask Jiraiya-sensei for help. He was the Great Sannin after all, and a great pervert to boot, if local rumors were true. Surely, he would know something about girls like Sakura and how to get into their mind. Unfortunately for Sai, it was after twelve, which meant Jiraiya was already at Ichiraku and slightly tipsy from several cups of rice wine.

"What you gotta do," he said, waving his hand in the air lazily and sloshing a bit of alcohol onto Sai's good trousers, "is you gotta get inside her --- hiccup! --- inside her mind, see how she sees. All flowers and sparkly crap." Jiraiya frowned. "Maybe that's --- hiccup! ---- what I shoulda done with Tsunade, yeah?"

But by then Sai was out of the bar, eager to put Jiraiya's advice to practice. He had to see the world in Sakura's vision, which he hoped was more than "flowers and sparkly crap" as the inebriated teacher so artfully put it. He had remembered one of his old teachers and a proverb he used to say, something about only understanding a person if you've walked in their shoes. Sai thought about Sakura's shoes; he imagined her feet were smaller than his. Ouch. Still, maybe there was a different way to interpret his old teacher's saying.

That is why, when Sakura returned home a half-hour later to grab a late lunch from the ice box, did she find Sai standing innocently in her bedroom, wearing her best yukata over a frilly nightshirt and long skirt, attempting to apply blush to his pale cheeks.

Sai held up one hand in greeting. "Good day, Sakura! Perhaps you'd like to help me apply this make-up ----"

Sakura's face was red with uncontrollable rage. "What the hell are you doing in my clothes? With my blush?" Her left fist was clenched and ready to pop Sai straight in the chin.

"You are a very hard woman to understand, Sakura Haruno." Sai pursed his lips in thought, which just made him look more ridiculous. "Maybe this is a good time to ask you some questions. Like about your hopes and aspirations, your favorite color, what kind of tree you would ---"

The first punch dazed him; the second one knocked him out so he never felt the rest of Sakura's blind fury raining down on his dolled-up body.

Several days later, Sai, desperate for advice, found Kakashi lounging around in a nearby tree, reading another one of his trashy romance novels. Kakashi thought the teen looked like he had just gone several rounds with a grizzly bear. When Sai told the older man of his troubles, how he just could not understand Sakura, he just grunted and asked him, "Why don't you just ask her yourself? This time without the crossdressing."

The next day, Sai found Kakashi in a different tree, reading the same book. He pointed to the bulky bandage over a throbbing black-and-blue cheek, the broken right arm set up in a off-white sling, all injuries and treatments administered by the same medical kunoichi.

"I did what you said, Kakashi-sensei." Sai frowned. "It didn't do any good. She just hit me again. A lot. What am I doing wrong?"

Kakashi threw his book at Sai like a kunai; he caught it between his fingers, looking confused. He tried to protest, but Kakashi had already vanished into thin air, typical scarecrow-sensei. Sai looked at the book in his hand. Icha Icha Paradise? Perhaps Kekashi was trying to tell him something. Or maybe he was just trying to get Sai out of his hair. Either way, Sai trudged back home, an odd smile stuck to his face, determined on reading the whole thing before morning came. He had found a new way to get into Sakura's mind. And hopefully, this one wouldn't get him beaten to a pulp.

He woke up several days later in a hospital bed and didn't understand why. Or why Sakura was leaning over his bed in a medic's uniform with an evil expression on her face. Sai had a feeling he wasn't going to enjoy finding out.