Test Drive

She barely felt the many shoves as she moved through the crowd. She didn't hear the complaints or the angry words. Of course, they wouldn't actually do anything to her. She was a shinobi. Though she was sworn to protect them, they couldn't help but fear her power and skill. But that wasn't her problem. She needed help. Fast. She groaned in frustration trying to find another way to get out of this predicament. She was a ninja! She was trained to think on her feet and get the job done. She also knew that it meant doing what needed to be done. She ran through her options and still came to the only conclusion.

She finally was clear of the crowd and moving towards the more wooded areas of Konoha. Based on sources, she knew he was somewhere there. Each step that took her closer to him, made her courage shrivel even further. It didn't help any when she saw him, eyes closed, leaning against a tree. It was his favourite spot it seemed. He could be found here on many occasions just staring into oblivion. She had hoped he would grow out of this brooding thing but after seven years of the same, she'd managed to put her childish crush aside and just be his friend. Not that he appreciated that either.

She came to a stop a few feet away from him and tried to steady herself. She hoped he wouldn't speak until she was ready. But she should have known better. Hoping for anything from him was pointless. "Something I can do for you Haruno?" She scowled. He'd taken to calling her that when puberty hit him. She had been told that girls got moodier the older they got but they hadn't met this boy when they wrote that law.

"Yes, actually." She said. As much as she wanted to give him a piece of her mind, it wouldn't help her right now. She knelt a few feet away from him and looked at him. She needed to at least seem confident. One thing she knew about this dark man, he hated weakness. Especially in girls. "I need a favour."

"And what makes you think I'd do anything for you?"

"It's not anything out of the way. You don't even have to move from where you are. I just-" She paused and gulped when obsidian eyes finally looked at her. It was unnerving the way he looked at her. She supposed that was what had enchanted her into a one-sided affair with him.

"Just what?" She cleared her throat, determined to bite the bullet. She opened her mouth and it came pouring out.

He'd seen her from a long way off. You had a hard time missing that hair. He had been hoping she would just walk by – avoid him – like she'd been doing for the last seven years. Oh yes. He'd noticed. On her thirteenth birthday, at her party, she'd cast determined eyes on him and he feared she had renewed her desire to snag him. But, it had been the opposite. Outside of missions, she went out of her way to avoid him. She accepted only a few invitations from Naruto so as not to hurt the blonde's feelings but more often than not, she refused. So, what was she doing here now? From all indications, she sought him out specifically. After hearing she needed a favour, he'd tuned her out for the most part. Only a few words penetrated his consciousness – 'help me', 'kiss' and 'you'.

"No."

"No?"

"No." he looked at her pointedly. She narrowed her eyes at him and scowled.

"You didn't even hear what I asked." She folded her arms across her chest and frowned. "It's simple enough. I need to know how to execute a kiss before my date on Thursday. That's three days from now. You'll be leaving on a mission tonight so-"

"And I said no." She frowned, looked away then her brow furrowed as she tried not to cry. She sighed brokenly then stood.

"F-Fine. I'll just ask Gaara when-" the arm that clamped down on her wrist like a vice had her gasping in pain. "Hey! That hurts!" she struggled to get away but he only yanked her downwards.

"Why are you asking me if you can ask someone else?"

"Because, with you, I wouldn't have to deal with repercussions." She wasn't going to tell him that he had been her first thought. His ego was big enough. She'd just spin it so it looked like he was her only choice. "I considered Naruto but he's dating Hinata now. Even if he weren't, I'd still have to deal with his crush on me. Ino's got dibs on Chouji. But when his mouth isn't clamped onto Ino, it's wrapped around food. Temari would beat me up just for even glancing at Shikamaru. TenTen would carve me up if she even thought I was looking at Neji. Not that he knows this. He's so clueless. Kiba is well-too emotional to be an instructor of this kind. I don't think he's ever had a kiss yet. Lee is already delusional about my feelings for him. I don't need that complication. I didn't want to ask Gaara because I think he likes me-"

"So sure of yourself."

"Look, you're the only I know who wouldn't make a big deal after this is done and it would be easily forgotten."

He listened to her explanations and cringed that he was her only choice as far as this was concerned.

"I even considered asking Kakashi but that would be weird. Plus he's a pervert."

He'd been surprised at that admission.

"Why do you need to know this before you-"

"I'm nineteen. Almost twenty. It would be way more embarrassing than-than this to mess this up. Shy as she may be, even Hinata has experience with this. That baka Naruto isn't as dense now. Please, please, please-"

"What do I have to gain from this?"

"Couldn't you just help out a long time friend?"

"We're not friends." He stated unemotionally.

"Fine." She sighed. "It would help out on missions. Since we would have already kissed, if on a mission we were required to act intimate, it wouldn't be so obvious we weren't otherwise intimate. And you'd be assured that I wasn't still after you. And don't pretend you haven't thought about that point. You think you're heaven's gift to womankind – not that I didn't play my part in boosting your ego – and you'll at least know that this girl doesn't hang on your every word with bated breath." He glared at her and she glared right back. When he didn't answer she threw her hands up. "Forget I asked. I'll ask Gaara or Kotetsu or-or-maybe I'll practice on a mirror." She made to get up but his quiet words forestalled her departure. "W-What?"

"I said, I'll do it."

If she continued talking, she might deduce that he was rowing the same boat. He'd never been kissed. He'd never been inclined to but after the Hokagae – Lady Tsuande – passed on him for a mission, he decided he needed to at least know the technical stuff. His Sharingan had been especially useful in copying the basics. It would be useful to try it out on someone to see if he could actually learn the infernal action without actual emotional involvement. He realized she was waiting on him, her hands fisted in her lap.

"Relax, Haruno. I'm not gonna jump you."

"I don't think you even know how to jump somebody." She muttered and absorbed his glare.

"Close your eyes. You don't need your eyes for this." He said. The real reason was he didn't want her to see him using the Sharingan. She obeyed him and he smirked at her naivety. He framed her hands with his face and she jumped, her breath whooshing out. He realized then that she had been holding her breath. "If you tense up, this won't be of any help for you." She nodded and squeezed her eyes to keep them from opening. He inhaled and touched his lips to hers. She blinked rapidly but didn't open her eyes. "I'm gonna kiss you then you mimic me." She nodded in understanding. He caressed her willing lips with his, sucking on the bottom one now and then. When her lips mirrored his, he barely stifled the groan that surprised him as much as it would have surprised her.

If he'd been paying attention to the world around him, he would have heard the comments from passers-by. They ranged from 'Get a room' to 'they are so cute together' to 'took them long enough'. When he pulled away from her, she had to visibly shake herself. "I think that's enough." He said. He started to put her way from him but she stopped him.

"Wait. I need to know how to-to-what did Ino call it? French kiss! After that, I'll be ready. Once I know that one, I can own up to ignorance on any other." She said. He narrowed his eyes at her, suspicion making him want to end the strange state of affairs. "I'm not asking you to screw me. It's just a kiss." She said impatiently.

"Fine." She closed her eyes again and he repeated his former ministrations. At a certain point, he used his tongue to trace the seam of her lips. "Open your mouth." He said against her lips and she obeyed. He slipped his tongue inside and immediately wished he hadn't. She bit him. He pulled back, quickly deactivating his Sharingan and frowning at her. "You bit me."

"Sorry, I didn't expect that. Your tongue was in my mouth." She muttered.

"That's why it's called a French kiss."

"Oh. I'll not bite you this time. I promise."

She pulled his head back to hers since she figured out what to do with her hands. She initiated the kiss then waited for him to move it to the next stage. When he did, she made sure to accommodate the strange action. It wasn't disgusting – just weird. No, not weird. It was actually quite nice. Sexy, even. She was able to taste him in her mouth and it opened a whole new world to her. Since she'd known him, she'd felt him, heard him, smelled him but never tasted him. She was glad she was over him. Or this would have been very awkward for her. She tentatively touched her tongue to his and it retreated. She opened her mouth wider and followed it into his mouth. She was seriously turned on. She pulled him up against her and sighed. She might be over him but he could turn her on in all the right places. Pretending to be attracted to him on a mission would not be a problem.

He needed to stop this. At this rate, they would be teaching each other how to have sex in public. Somewhere along the way, she had managed to straddle his lap and was sitting flush against an appendage that was starting to stir. But his hands disobeyed his head. They pulled her deeper into his embrace, grateful his hips were staying still. His traitorous hands wandered down to her hips and pushed her downwards and that's when sense returned for both of them. She pulled away even as he pushed her back. She whistled and fanned her flushed face.

She managed to stand up without embarrassing herself too much. He was gracious enough to help her keep her balance. She straightened her clothes and brushed her hair back into place. She smiled at him shakily. "I guess I know one more person I can't get drunk with." She teased lightly. "Thanks for your help." She bowed her head then left him to his thoughts.

He didn't see her until he returned from his mission two weeks later. When he did, she was smiling up at a man easily termed handsome. He was saying something to her then she laughed, the sound carrying to his ears. Irritation welled up in him. He considered walking the other way but he was no coward. He had nothing to hide from. She looked up, saw him, and then smiled happily. He hadn't been planning to meet her and her beau but it was obvious she was introducing them.

"Sasuke, this is Riku." The man was obviously older than her – early twenties maybe. And he wasn't a shinobi. He didn't have a headband. Looking at Sakura, she wasn't wearing hers either. "This is my teammate Sasuke."

"Nice to meet you. Sakura has told me a great deal about you and Naruto." He offered a hand. Sasuke looked at it before deliberately stuffing both of his in his pockets. He watched as the man blushed in obvious embarrassment. Sakura however looked like she was ready to hit him.

"Don't even try it, Haruno." He said in warning.

"I wasn't going to waste my time, Sasuke." She took Riku's hand and walked away while telling the man about rude pigs that thought they were better than others.

Sakura was mutilating a rice cake while her friends shifted anxiously beside her. "If I had known he was as civilized as a wild boar, I wouldn't have introduced them. He is so conceited."

"This is Sasuke, we're talking about." Ino said as if it excused his behaviour.

"If Riku hadn't been standing there, I would have pounded him into the pavement." She said in a deadly whisper.

"I would have liked to see you try, Haruno." The insufferable man said, sliding in next to her. The chopstick she'd been using to stab the rice cake snapped and the section of table she'd been holding snapped off in her hand. She growled and glared at him. The owner bustled over and looked like he didn't want to say anything given her show of strength.

"I'm sorry. It'll be replaced by tomorrow. I promise." He nodded gratefully and disappeared. Sakura, feeling childish shoved Sasuke out of the seat and smiled triumphantly. He glared up at her from his place on the ground.

"Haruno-"

"Don't Haruno me you jerk. You deserve it. And more but Lady Tsunade wouldn't take too kindly to having you in her ICU. Plus, I'm sure she'd just make it even worse by making me take care of you." She stood and stepped over him. She didn't care that her skirt gave him a view of her lacy underwear.

Sufficed to say, Sasuke proceeded to aggravate her after that night. He invited himself to any lunch, dinner or party where Riku was in attendance. He continually embarrassed the man, interrupted him and Sakura and basically just got on her nerves. To make it worse, after only a month, Riku called it quits. So now, she was single and pissed. Her anger was being vented on her former sensei, Kakashi.

"Sakura!" he yelled after a particularly hard punch. "As glad as I am that you've improved, I don't want to be punished for Sasuke's stupidity." Sakura paused, anger making her skin red.

"Sorry." She slammed her fist into the ground very nearly covering herself in the resulting upwelling of earth. "I think I'll go take a swim."

"You'll have to postpone that swim, Sakura. The Kazekage is with Lady Tsunade and I'm pretty sure you'll be the one to keep his company."

"Great. Just great. Like I'm fit company for anybody." She ran a weary hand over her face. "Tell her I'll be there in two hours."

"You want me to tell her that?" he shook his head. "My head is not as hard as Lord Jyraiya's. I'll just let her fume silently until you get there."

"Coward."

"That I am. See you." He said before vanishing in a puff of smoke and swirling leaves.

When she finally got to the tower, Lady Tsunade was angry. Gaara was sitting patiently in a chair. "You're two hours late."

"I had to make myself presentable. I was training when I got the message."

"Don't care." She said dismissively. "Just entertain him. He's annoying me." Gaara glared at the blonde leader but otherwise did nothing.

"Gaara?" Sakura said and he stood immediately. She turned to lead him out.

Outside, she struggled to keep her mind of the stupid Uchiha that cost her Riku. "Something troubles you, Lady Sakura." Gaara said in that low, gravelly voice of his.

"Don't worry about it." She said smiling for his benefit but he didn't buy it. "It's nothing, really. You don't-"

"You don't have to tell me." He said. His hand on her lower back guided her to the side of the road and they came to a stop. "But an upset Sakura Haruno is good for nobody especially Sakura Haruno." He said. She was surprised he said as much. He hardly ever spoke. He spoke only to Temari and Naruto.

"Look, you don't need to worry. I'll be fine in a few days. Maybe even tomorrow morning."

"Very well." They made to move again but came face to face with the bane of her existence. "Uchiha." She heard Gaara murmur.

"Gaara." He said. Sakura glanced between the two and she wondered if they remembered she was there.

"Have you eaten, Gaara? We could stop by the Ramen stand. We might even run into Naruto." She said after inserting herself between the two glaring men. She took his arm and led him away, not even sparing Sasuke a glance.

She and Gaara had been talking and she was doing her best to ignore the dark man that followed them. Gaara seemed more than capable of ignoring him. "I see him – can't miss those orange pants." She said. Gaara allowed her to precede him and she smiled at his courtesy. "Naruto, look who's here."

"Gaara!" he hugged the quiet man and Sakura surmised that Naruto was the only one brave enough to initiate contact with the Kazekage. "And Sasuke too!" he also hugged the other man. "All my favourite people together." They each took a seat. Sakura was grateful that Sasuke chose to sit on the other side of Hinata and Naruto.

"Hinata, sorry to mess up your date."

"No, it's okay, S-Sakura. I'll have plenty more time to spend with Naruto."

"Oh, Gaara, I should introduce you to Hinata. She is the keeper of my heart, this one." Hinata blushed but managed to shake the Kazekage's hand.

"Naruto has written about you in his letters. It is good to meet you." He shook her hand gently then released it.

"So, Gaara, how come you didn't bring this girl you always talk about with you?" Sakura sighed knowing Naruto still didn't know how to keep things to himself. Gaara merely shook his head.

"I told you, she isn't from Suna."

"So where's she from?"

"Here." He said and then proceeded to eat from his bowl. Naruto made to ask but a glance from the chewing Gaara shut him up.

"Well at least you have more sense than the teme here." Naruto said pointing at Sasuke. "He had the opportunity to be with a great, special girl but the baka didn't even look her way. And when she moves on, he decides to mess her life up." Sakura glared at Naruto knowing anything more than that would have been saying too much. She looked up when Gaara responded.

"I've always known he was too stupid to know a good thing when he's got it." He said and Sakura had to force down the blush since he was staring at her so intently. Sasuke had not responded. Things were silent for a while before Naruto blurted out the most unbelievably embarrassing thing.

"Hey, if things don't work out with that other girl, you should date Sakura." This time, Sakura did hit him in the head.

"Don't listen to his idiot, Gaara. He doesn't know when to shut up." She said smiling. Gaara smirked at her and she had the sudden desire to run.

"Actually, if Lady Sakura doesn't object, I wouldn't be opposed to the idea." It was Naruto's turn to be stunned.

"Hold on, Gaara, are you saying-"

"Yes." He said and Sakura realized she wasn't paying attention. She was too stunned by the fact that Gaara had asked her out. Naruto had been about to say more but Hinata decided to force him away from the new developments. Sakura was grateful. She just wished Gaara hadn't done it in front of Sasuke. She looked in said person's direction and saw that he was mimicking a statue. And yet, he was obviously waiting to hear her answer. "Lady Sakura?" the hand that enveloped her own was hot – not warm but hot.

"I-" she cleared her throat. "I don't know what to say." She said honestly. His eyes narrowed and she sensed he wasn't pleased with her answer but she saw a calm acceptance. He leaned towards her.

"I will only wait for so long, Sakura." He said. To say she wasn't deeply affected by the deep timbre of his voice would be a lie. It traveled over her skin, into her pores, through her veins and to places she didn't want to think about right now.

"I-I" she swallowed. "I'd love to." She said and knew she meant it. It made her even more eager to know that Sasuke wouldn't be able to scare away Gaara.

The burning at the back of her head disappeared and she knew that Sasuke had left. It was a relief. Finally, he was getting the idea. She guessed he hadn't been convinced when she dated Riku but this would get it through his thick skull. She was over him. Maybe this – this pull she had towards Gaara would turn into something more. She escorted him to the inn before returning to her own home. Sasuke was waiting for her at the door.

"Sasuke."

"What's your game?"

"I don't know what game you're referring to." She folded her arms and waited for him to expound.

"This thing with Gaara. Did you and him plan this? To make me react?"

"Man, your conceit knows no bounds." She chuckled. "I didn't plan anything with Gaara and if I were to plan something like that, I wouldn't have picked him. He's too sweet a guy to mess with. And if you're reacting one way or another to this, it's not my fault and I don't care." She said. Her voice held laughter. "Look, Sasuke, I spent the earlier parts of my life trying to catch your eye then I tried being you friend. Now, I don't care. You're a Konoha shinobi and when its counts I'll watch your back but I'm not going to ask anything else from you. Keep your affections, if you have any, to yourself. I'm just glad you don't treat Naruto the way you treat me. If you did, I don't care what Lady Hokage thought, I'd put you in a coma."

"I see." He looked away. "I'll see you on our next mission."

"Uh-uh. You're not going to leave here making it seem like I wrote you off." She grabbed his shoulders. "You wrote me off. Understand that. You threw my friendship in my face. Get it in your head. This is all you. It maybe the only thing you're actually responsible for. Your relationship with Naruto, all his doing. Most of your life, other people made it happen. Try doing something by yourself. For once." She dropped her hands and ruffled his hair. "Smiling would be first on the list."

He didn't understand what was happening. One minute she was telling him off then she encouraging him to try and be –what? Human? She was going inside now and suddenly he had to do it. He leaned down and kissed her cheek. "Thank you." Then he left.

Gaara spent three weeks in Konoha, during which he dated Sakura. They were the couple to see. Of course, many of the villagers were wondering what Sakura was doing with the man that tried to kill them once. But they said nothing to her about it. When he left, Sakura found it was painful, but strangely a relief. Things with them were so intense. Yet it was totally hands off. Riku had kissed her on the first date. So far, he'd only kissed her cheek or her hand. But there were other things. It seemed he had a hard time keeping his sand under control. Whenever they went out, she'd feel it moving up her leg, or brushing across her arm. It tickled at her neck or swirled her hair. Once, he had to have a conversation with the errant grains. It was slightly adorable. It was the only time she saw him blush. He had kissed her cheek before he left.

Now she had to return to the routine of Konoha life. Who knew when she would see Gaara again? She was protégé to the Hokage and he was the Kazekage. Their lives would hardly intercept enough for anything to happen. She sighed in defeat. "My love life is cursed!" she wailed to the silent river.

"Why so glum, Sakura?" she turned to face her company – it turned out to be Ten Ten.

"I finally managed to embark on the world of dating then Uchiha scares him off. I start dating Gaara-"

"You were dating the Kazekage of Suna?"

"It was slightly private." Sakura explained. "We can't even break up because it never really started. And with this distance, it'll be hard to continue."

"But you like him."

"It is worth exploring. He is so much more than he seems. He's kind. He's sweet – and that voice. It just skates across my nerves in all the right places. Sitting close to him is like sitting to close to the fire. It burns but-he never does anything. It's so frustratingly sexy."

"I think I wrote the book on frustration." Ten Ten said. "I wish I had the guts to just give up on this damn crush. It's like those damn eyes of his can see everything but someone who cares for him."

"Take things into your own hands. You're being too subtle."

"But-whenever I try to say something, he just looks at me and I lose all my senses."

"Just grab him and kiss him."

"I've never been kissed before. What was it like when you had your first kiss? Was Riku good at it?"

"My first kiss wasn't with Riku-" her hand slapped over her mouth a second too late.

"But-ooooooh-who was it?" Ten Ten said conspiratorially.

"N-No. Forget it. It's no one." She stood up and brushed at her clothes. "You're training with Neji tomorrow. When you get the opportunity, just go for it. Just plant one on him. Get it out of your system. After that, it'll be up to him what he does with it."

"I guess I could do that. But mark my word, Sakura Haruno, I'll find out who you tongued before Riku." With that, they parted ways. Sakura was making her way to Sasuke to warn him about the possible outing of their secret.

"You just had to open your mouth huh?"

"I didn't tell her who but it won't be long before she finds out and you might as well expect it. We weren't exactly in a private place when we kissed."

"Well, whatever happens, happens." He said and shrugged.

"Yeah, well, whatever. I'll see yo-" she realized what she had been about to say. "Bye." She amended.

It took a while for the news to get out, but in that time, Ten Ten still hadn't acted on her desires. Apparently digging into Sakura's closet and exposing her skeletons. "I can't believe you managed to kiss him!" Ino exclaimed to her.

"It was nothing." She wasn't going to expound on that. "Just drop it. It was just a kiss. The end."

"Fine you secretive cow." Ino said with no malice. "The fan club is going to maul you. You best watch your back."

"I can take 'em."

Across the village, a certain brunette was chanting herself into getting past a certain point in her life. "Just walk up to him and say it. Just say it. If your tongue won't speak, kiss him and walk away." She said, the last word taking her to the main gate of the compound.

"State your business." The guard said.

"I'm Ten Ten, here to see Neji Hyuuga, my teammate." A signal was given then the gate was being opened. On the other side, Neji was waiting. She was shocked he was there. Not that he was at home. Just that he was standing at the gate.

"This way." He said indicating she should follow him. She sighed. This gave her more time get herself back together. A few minutes later, they were seated beside the training area. "What is it you wish to say?" he said in that soft, emotionless voice that pricked at her nerves as much as attracted her. She was sitting too far from him. She needed to get closer. She looked around as if to see if anyone was listening. He took this a cue to lean closer. She couldn't have planned it better if she tried.

"You see-" she cleared her throat. "I-" she should have known proximity would make this harder. She strung a few curses together in her mind before diving in. Neji was known for his speed, but not even he could dodge this move. She slanted her lips across his in one quick motion then moved back in one just as quick. She rose, pivoted and was retracing her steps as quickly as she could to the main gate. She hadn't expected that Neji would silently order his guards to stop her. She nearly cried and cursed ever doing this in the first place. She followed without protest when his hand clamped down on her wrist. She sat when his hand pushed down on her shoulder. And she waited, eyes glued to the table, as he drank his tea across from her.

"Do you want to explain what that was about?"

"No." she said. There was no way she could explain it. She couldn't say it, which is why she had ended up kissing him. The cup clicked on the table as he lowered it. She was angry at her cowardice then and now so she finally lifted her eyes to meet his. Thankfully, they were clear of tears. Some of her dignity would be intact when she left here. "Look, That's all I came here to do. Now, I'm going to get some lunch so if you'd excuse me-"

"I'm not finish."

"I am." She stood but again he gripped her wrists and held her in place.

"I am not finish with you." She noticed his voice hadn't changed. It was still soft. But laced with the command.

"Let me go, Neji." She warned. Like him, she might – manhandled, she wouldn't be. He released her but moved to block her exit. "What exactly do you want to hear, Neji?" she wasn't going to ramble now that she got herself into this mess.

"Why did you kiss me?"

"If you have to ask then my question was answered." She tried to leave again but he blocked her path.

"But that still leaves mine unanswered." He said.

"You might have eyes that see everything but you are too many kinds of blind." Anger prompted her to push her way past him. He took the attack and used her momentum to pin her against the adjacent wall. This made Ten Ten laugh. "Most guys in your position would not be so focused on pinning me or questioning why I kissed them. This would be an opportunity. But you-you and Sasuke Uchiha are too stupid to know what to do with a woman." She said. "Get off me. I'm done here."

"You are too forward for your own good, Ten Ten."

"And you – like Sasuke – are going to die a virgin. I bet if I hadn't kissed you just now, your lips would die virgins as well." She tried to shove him away but he had her sufficiently pinned.

"Big girls should know better than to poke a tiger." He threatened.

"Did you hear?" Ino exclaimed a month later. "Neji proposed to Ten Ten."

"Whoa…" Sakura said. "How'd that happen?"

"No one really knows. All I got was she visited him a month ago and no one has seen her since. Apparently, it was thought that she was on a mission."

"I guess she took my advice. But why has she been missing?"

"Neji the pervert probably locked her in his room." Ino chuckled.

"He seems the type." Sakura said seriously then they both burst into laughter.

"So what kind of advice did you give her?"

"I told her to plant one on him and see where it leads."

"How come don't take your own advice regarding Sasuke?"

"That's because I'm not interested in Sasuke anymore. I can only hold onto something so long. You know?"

"I guess. So what about you and Gaara?"

"I can't do a long distance relationship. He knows it and I know it. I'll have to move on from this too. But damn that man is sexy."

"Eew." Ino said.

"You had to be there." Sakura said. "How man people sound like sex?"

"What do you know about sex? You're a virgin." Ino challenged.

"That doesn't mean you don't know how to get hot and bothered. Especially when the hand that's touching you is so hot it could burn."

"Damn." Ino said.

"Yeah. Damn. If I lived in Suna, nothing would stop me from snagging him."

"So what now?"

"I find someone else. Or wait until they find me." She turned and bumped right into Sasuke.

"Providence!" she heard Ino singing as she disappeared into the flower shop.

"Shut up you crazy pig." Sakura yelled and was rewarded with laughter.

"I've been looking for you." He said and Sakura had to slap herself mentally then surreptitiously pinch herself to make sure she was awake. Then slapped herself mentally for even think she'd be dreaming.

"Why?"

"We need to talk."

"So talk."

"Not here."

"You're not trying to get me alone to do perverted things are you?" She didn't know why she was teasing but she said it any way. His response floored her.

"Would you prefer if I did them here?" he took advantage of her shock to lead her out of the crowd and into a more secluded area.

"What the hell is going on with you?"

"I wanted to apologize for my behaviour. I should have had more respect for your feelings when we were growing up. I should not have sabotaged your relationship with Riku even if he was a stick in the mud."

"Unlike you." She said sarcastically.

"I'm sorry about all of that especially rejecting the one other friend I could have had in the entire village."

"Well, at least you're becoming more human. Good for you." She patted his chest and moved to leave.

"Wait. I'm not finished. I am most of all sorry that I buried my feelings for you so deep that I thought I hated you."

"Okay, you need to stop talking." She said suddenly apprehensive about where this was going. "You're forgiven. We're friends." Desperation made her give into that at least. She was not about to uncover things she'd buried along time ago just because- his words interrupted her thoughts.

"I don't want to be just your friend, Sakura. I haven't for a long time."

"Stop-"

"I don't mind chasing you. It'll at least give me a taste of what you went through. But know this, at the end, I will have you."

"No." She turned to leave now but his hand spread across her stomach and pulled her back into him.

"The difference about this chase is I'll dare to go further than you went in your pursuit. I'll make you burn hotter than you burned for that sand demon." She felt the heat spread in her stomach and she wondered if he was doing that with his hand or if she was actually being turned on. It was hard to think. "Expect me when you least except to see me, Sakura." He whispered against the back of her neck. Then he was gone.

Sakura was in hell. She was sure of it. So far, Sasuke and snuck into her room and while she slept-she couldn't bear to think about it as heat spread across her cheeks. In those moments, she cursed being a virgin. When she was working, he'd show up and just watch her. It got to the point where even when he wasn't in the village, she felt watched. She felt like crying. It was so strange that what she wanted so much when she was younger was now the source of her torment.

"What do I do, Hinata?"

"I don't know. All I had to do was slap Naruto over the head."

"Ino?"

"With Chouji, it is food."

"Temari?"

"You don't want to know. Trust me." She didn't bother asking TenTen. She was the one who had helped her. How was she going to get rid of Sasuke's sudden ardour?

"Don't look now, but the man of your dreams is heading this way." Sakura stiffened and turned to see a tolerant Sasuke escorting an excited Naruto.

"Hey guys!" he exclaimed. He planted a kiss on Hinata's lips then had to hold her up as she threatened to meet the floor. "You should be used to this by now." Naruto said teasingly.

"I don't think I would get used to my hunk of a boyfriend kissing me." Sakura said in Hinata's defense.

"I'm a hunk now, huh?" Naruto teased. "You hear that, Hinata? Sakky thinks I'm a hunk."

"And she is so right." Hinata said dreamily. Sakura was so distracted by the fawning couple she failed to notice when Sasuke slipped in beside her. She almost bit her tongue when she felt a wayward hand sliding casually up and down her thigh. She glared at him but the longer she stared the higher his hand went. She knew her face was bright red.

"You okay Sakura?" Temari asked taking in her heightened colour. Sasuke's hand deliberately brushed at inside of her thigh just below her most intimate place. The angry retort slammed its way back down her throat on a hasty breath and a squeak came out instead.

"F-Fine." She said. Sasuke for his part was talking to Hinata and Naruto as if nothing was going on. She squeezed her thighs together and brushed his hand surreptitiously away. She was granted a reprieve when the hand stayed away. Things flowed smoothly after that. But soon, she had to sit through Ino tapping her back lightly after she nearly choked. She didn't know how he managed it without looking suspicious. He had folded his arms and now his right hand was secretly fondling her left breast.

"I n-n-need to get going you guys. Tsunade w-will be waiting for me."

"I'll walk you." Sasuke said and smirked at her dismayed face. She couldn't refuse. She'd just look foolish and petty. So she just walked away with him beside her.

"I am going to poison you." She said harshly when they were out of earshot.

"If the poison is on your lips, you have a good chance of that working." He said. "Or your neck. Or your belly. Or your-"

"Shut up. Just shut up." She said and walked faster. Of course he couldn't pass up the opportunity to corner her, so when they got just inside the tower, he backed her up into a wall. "Why are you doing this? You got what you wanted. I stopped pestering you. I moved on. Why won't you leave me alone?" he leaned forward and whispered.

"If you wanted me to leave you alone, you wouldn't get so hot and bothered by my presence. You wouldn't react at all." He taunted. He pressed into her. "Your pulse wouldn't pound so hard against your throat. Your eyes wouldn't dilate. Your breath wouldn't speed up. You wouldn't get knots in your stomach. You wouldn't get wet just thinking about what I'm going to do to you." She groaned in frustration. He rubbed his cheek against hers and smiled. "See you around, Sa-ku-ra."

When she got to the Hokage's office, she was too out of it to actually do any work. "Just give it up already, Sakura." Tsunade said.

"Is that what you did when Lord Jiraiya was pestering you? When he was deliberately seducing you?"

"Watch your tongue." Tsunade warned.

"I just want to be given enough time to think about all this. But all he has me thinking about is the things he wants to do to me." She complained.

"So return the favour. Tease him for all he is worth."

"I'm not a tease, Lady Tsunade. I'm a simple girl."

"There is no trick to teasing except knowing your opponent. He knows you and your weaknesses. He's using it against you. Use what you know to addle his brain."

"Who the hell knows anything about Sasuke Uchiha?"

"Naruto. And you. Dig deep. You know where he loves to be caressed literally and figuratively. Think of it as a mission. The highest ranked mission. Be a ninja."

"You think I could?"

"You wouldn't be my student if you couldn't."

It was two weeks of torment and intense research before she tested out her plan. She saw him coming towards her and she ran through her plans. Which one wouldn't make him to suspicious. It came to her. She made sure he realized she saw him. She schooled her features to look apprehensive then she took off. She'd seen the shock in his face before she'd turned around fully.

It was two minutes before he caught her and propped her up against the side of a building. "Running was never your style, Sakura." He said.

"What else can I do?" she said and tried to push him off her. Her hands rested on his chest as if in defense.

"Stop fighting, Sakura." He said and leaned towards her. So far, he had yet to kiss her but she sensed that he was going to do it soon. She had to trip him up before then. Even if she lost this war of wills, she could claim a few battles for herself. Her nails sank into his chest and she saw the pain in his eyes but she also saw the flare of his nostrils, felt the intake of breath and the tightening of his erection against her. She gave nothing away. She shifted so that her stomach rubbed against it but she never let him know that this was a deliberate torture.

"I have to fight. I don't want this." She said but even to her ears, it didn't ring true. He smirked at the breathless quality of her voice. She shifted again and he groaned. He wondered how he never noticed how much she affected him before.

"Liar." He taunted. She flexed her fingers again as this time he couldn't help but ground his hips against her. She didn't even know what she did to him. He thought.

"There are p-pl-plenty of other girls who would welcome this-this attention. Maybe even half of the village. Why not-"

"I want you." He said simply. To hear it stated so plainly nearly made her give in right there. The mission rang out and she knew she had to make him suffer. He touched her cheek softly and her eyes fluttered. She breathed brokenly into his face knowing her breath smelled like tomatoes. He inhaled and she almost laughed at the tremor that ran through him. He pulled away and took one of her hands in his. He caressed it and then brought it to his lips. "Until next time." Then he was gone. Sakura sat down where she stood and sighed. It wasn't a huge victory but she'd riled him just a little.

Sasuke had never figured he would be on the receiving end of his own torture. His victim, however, didn't know she was torturing him. She was trying to get rid of him. He watched her now as she moved from tree to tree in front of him. They were on a delivery mission – boring – but the package was an important man. While the man shuffled below them between the two other team members – genins – he and Sakura provided cover. She had filled out greatly since her genin days and he realized he was developing an obsession with her rear area. Her fashion choice didn't seem to help much either. A modified version of her genin attire, it was shorter and tighter. Her green eyes were compelling and seemed to have more character than before. In fact, they seemed to have a more colour than before. Often times, he'd see red and blue hues shimmering in their depths. And her mouth – his greatest temptation. It didn't help that he knew the softness of her lips, the yielding nature of them when they opened for him. She tasted and smelled like spices and flowers. This slow seduction was taking too long and was taking it's toll. He'd have to speed things up and get her to capitulate.

She could feel his eyes on her and the intensity made her back – and other areas – itch. They had two more hours of this before they would camp then head back to the village. When she returned, she would kill her teacher. The woman had deliberately put Sasuke on the mission just to irritate her. She'd just have to bear it.

Finally, they made camp. The genins were sleeping while he and Sakura kept watch. They would be going home at sunrise and Sakura was grateful. She drank some water and watched him as he twirled a kunai around his forefinger. "Why are you doing this?" she asked suddenly. "You spent most of your growing years avoiding me and all of a sudden you realize I'm alive and a girl on top of it."

"MY reasons are my own. But I didn't realize you were a girl." His eyes traveled the length of her and she suddenly felt naked. "Girls don't look the way you do." He said still undressing her with his eyes.

"But I'm over you. I am not interested in you. I don't even want to be your friend anymore." She said. He looked at her, the firelight making his eyes seem darker and deeper. He stood up and walked towards her; it propelled her into sitting up and backing into a tree.

He stooped before her. "Then why do I bother you so much? Why do your eyes darken when I touch you? Why does your skin flush when I'm near you? Why do you breathe as if my scent is oxygen?" he asked. It wasn't snide or smug. It was just factual. Her body did betray her.

"I never said I wasn't attracted to you, Uchiha-" at his warning glance she corrected herself. "I mean Sasuke." He'd shown her what torture he could inflict when she called him that. "You're good-looking guy. I just won't get involved with you."

"Why?"

"You're pig-headed. Conceited. Overbearing. Easily jealous. More moody than a girl before her period-" his hand traveling up her thigh made her pause. Literally. She stopped breathing. Her heart skidded to a halt. Her blood seemed to congeal in her veins. Just as quickly as her body stuttered to a stop, it spun out of control. White heat flooded her veins, her heart thudded loud in her ears – she still wasn't breathing she realized.

"You should breath; you're turning blue." He teased and ran the same wandering finger over her lips. She inhaled and exhaled brokenly and tried to put some distance between them. "You don't need to worry, Sakura." He said lazily. "I won't do anything here. When I do something, it'll be away from prying eyes. I can't guarantee the ears though. I'm sure you're a screamer." She blushed hotly and looked away. "I know you want me Sakura." He said and kissed her lips lingeringly.

Things were getting bad for her. Thankfully, Tsunade had sent Sasuke on a mission. She had breathing space in that regard. But now, Gaara was back and she was doing her best to avoid him. That just made it worse. She shouldn't be avoiding Gaara. She should be talking to him, enjoying his company – even if it wouldn't go much farther than them being friends. She sighed and picked a flower as she looked out at the river. The surface was calm. But she knew treacherous and boisterous currents tore unseen. This battle of wills between her and Sasuke was taking its toll.

"Lady Sakura?" she jumped about a foot. She'd been so engrossed in her musings, she missed his approach. She tried to steady her breathing then looked at him.

"Gaara, how are you?"

He lowered himself beside and crossed his legs. "Slightly confused." He said while staring out at the river with her. He looked at her and waited until she faced him before he continued. "Why are you hiding from me?"

"Honestly, I'm not sure." She said holding his gaze. She cocked her head to the side and studied him. "I know I like you but things have gotten really complicated since you left."

"You like me?" he inquired.

"Immensely. And no doubt I'm attracted to you. I'm just not sure if I want it to mean anything more than friendship." They were silent after that. They listened to the wind and birds. She felt when he took her hand and she felt that burning sensation zing through her. She felt the hair all over her body stand on end. She knew what she needed to do now. Comparison was her only option. Turned towards him and kissed him. He leaned out of the kiss. She felt the rejection to her core. But then he gathered her close to him. The sensations danced like colours against the darkness of her closed eyes. She felt burned. She felt touched. When their tongues met she couldn't help but moan. She molded herself to fit his frame and sighed exultantly. This was a kiss worthy of the record books. But even amidst the frenzied storm of sensual heat, she realized something was lacking. She reluctantly – but with great necessity – pulled away.

"Wow." She said. She was afraid of speaking. Of saying something that might hurt him. But she needed to at least show him good that had been. She fanned herself a little then smiled. She studied him and saw a contemplative look on his face. "Gaara?"

"That was-" he cleared his throat. He stared hard at her. "I'm not sure how to say this without sounding like an – Naruto would say ass." He finished and smiled adorably.

"Then maybe I should say it." She ran a hand over his chest. "We have chemistry. Hot chemistry." She said and swallowed. "But we lack that-that-"

"Certain something. That emotional connection that our friends Naruto and Hinata have." He supplied. Sakura nodded in agreement. She hugged him close than and was pleased to just be held.

"If I was that kind of girl and you were that kind a guy, we could have so much fun together."

"I am honoured by your friendship, Lady Sakura." He nodded respectfully then returned to staring out at the river.

Well, she thought, I got through that without hurting his feelings. Or bringing up Sasuke's name. Everyone knew the two couldn't stand each other. She hummed a meaningless melody on her way to Tsunade's office. She thought about things with Sasuke and she wondered what would happen if she just gave in. Would he be like the typical guy and lose interest? It wouldn't matter. She wasn't giving in.

"Lady Tsunade-" She paused at the sudden flying of paper. When it settled she saw a guilty Lord Jyraiya whistling away and a tomato-red Lady Tsunade pretending to be calm.

"Don't you knock, Sakura?"

"It wasn't a prerequisite before." She said trying not to laugh.

"W-Wel-"

"Calm down, Lady Tusnade. I'll just come back when you two are all worn out." She closed door to block the missile heading her way and laughed. She winked at a flustered Shizune and headed to the hospital. She hadn't expected to see Sasuke though. She smiled to herself wondering what she should do. What torture could she inflic- her thoughts came to a screeching halt as soon as he turned around. It wasn't the large cut on his forehead. It wasn't the sling around his right arm. Her medical training registered them as non-threatening. It was his eyes. She couldn't help but wrap her arms around herself. The shiver that ran throughout her body was uncontrollable. She'd seen that look once and she hoped to never see it again. She had hoped she'd never be the target of it's intensity.

She didn't notice Naruto right away. She heard him say something. Or she thought she did. His eyes seemed to be sucking all of her former joy away. So cold. So empty. She couldn't look away. And it was a good thing she didn't. If she had even blinked she would have missed the movement and ended up with more than a glancing blow to the chin.

"What the hell-" Naruto was too stunned to even react. She wasn't even sure she had spoken at all. She was too stunned to put up a defense. Sasuke had attacked her. She came out her daze in time to see him making a move towards her again. Too fast. She thought just before his hand clamped down around her neck.

"You bitch." He breathed. She couldn't really answer. He was slowly depriving her of air. She saw Tsunade and Jyraiya come out of the Hokage Tower shock emblazoned on their faces. No one made a move. Sasuke was speaking to her. "…could you do that? I thought we were making progress. But you were just biding your time like the whore I always-" he never got to finish the sentence. She wasn't sure what was happening. There was a buzzing in her ear and her vision was blurry. A second before silence reigned supreme, she heard a startled gasp from her boss.

Naruto wasn't sure what was happening but all of a sudden Kakashi and ANBU members started moving the crowd back and out of the area. Kakashi pulled him away before he had the mind to protest. HE looked around and saw that his sensei and the Hokage were doing the same. All eyes were fixed on the unbelievable scene against the Hokage tower. It happened so fast. One minute Sasuke had her pinned against the wall, her face flushed from the pressure on her neck. Then in a split second Sasuke was on his back with her knee in his back. Her hands made fists and they slammed into his back. He was too stunned to speak. Apparently the same was true for the other observers. He had to help but Kakashi had a firm grip on him.

"If you value your life, and the lives of the villagers, don't draw any attention away from Sasuke." Kakashi whispered.

"Why? What's going on?"

"Now's not the time. Just be quiet."

"You imbecilic asshole." A harsh voice so unlike Sakura rang out. She flipped him over and punched him in the face. "How dare you lay a hand on me? You don't deserve her. You don't deserve her!" she screamed and hit him again. Her hands glowed eerily and Naruto knew what was coming. He tried to go to them again but Kakashi held him fast. Then suddenly there was a furious yell. She stopped. She struggled against invisible hands.

"Shikamaru." Naruto whispered.

"Get him out now!" came the man's voice. Chouji jumped in and lifted the barely conscious Sasuke out of the raging girl's reach. He saw Ino's father step forward, perform hand signals then Sakura slumped forward. Things happened quickly after that. Tsunade got to work on Sasuke while Sakura was bound with chakra absorbing ropes. She was wrapped in a chakra blanket then whisked away.

It was hours before anyone heard about Sasuke and Sakura's condition. "You may have witnessed or heard of the incident today." She held up her hand at the rush of questions. Once she had silence, she continued. "Sakura is not a normal shinobi. By reason, she shouldn't be a shinobi at all."

"What?"

"Which is why I took her under my wing. Sakura has a split personality that until today had not manifested itself."

"Then how did you know about it?" Neji asked.

"Once, during her training, she was injured. It was serious. I had to induce a coma. So I called your father, Ino. What we didn't expect was that once we put Sakura to sleep, that her other side would come out."

"Should we be concerned?" Neji asked again.

"There are unknowns but from what we observed, this persona doesn't mean us or Sakura any harm. It, as I said, has never shown itself outside of that one time."

"Then what happened?" Hinata asked.

"She has been under great strain lately. Emotionally. But it was the deliberate attack on her person that caused this. This persona is Sakura's protector. Keeper if you will. She holds Sakura in check."

"So her temper wasn't just for show?" Ino said with growing concern.

"No. It is not. Which is why I started training her. Only with this training can she work off excess energy and emotions. She will be fine once her throat heals."

"And Sasuke?" Naruto asked. Tsunade had to breathe to calm herself.

"He's lucky that one. One more hit and he would be done for as a ninja. The idiot. He will be charged with treason-"

"But-"

"Naruto! This is the law." Tsunade insisted.

"But-it's Sasuke. He wouldn't do that to Sakky. He loves her."

"Maybe a little too much. When he wakes up he will answer to the charge of treason against a fellow shinobi as well as insubordination. He was supposed to be away on a mission." She rubbed at her aching forehead. "I will keep you informed as I see fit. You are dismissed."

She opened her eyes. Her head was pounding. Her throat hurt. But most of all she was scared. One word came out of her mouth. "Sasuke!" a medic rushed in and tried to calm her. She didn't struggle but she continued to cry. She saw when Lady Tsunade entered minutes later. "Where is he? Is he okay?"

"I'm not sure he'll appreciate your concern." She said kindly.

"What happened?" she croaked.

After waving the medic away, she spoke. "He attacked you but we are not sure why. He's not supposed to be home yet."

"Did he say anything?"

"He is still unconscious."

"What? Why?"

"You don't remember anything?" She shook her head. "You beat him up."

"I wouldn't-I couldn't-"

"It wasn't you, technically."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Don't get worked up, Sakura. After speaking with your mother, we have confirmed that you are host to a second personality. Apparently, it is genetic. This persona acted in your behalf to save your life." Sakura listened but she was more concerned about Sasuke.

"Will he be okay? Did I hurt him too badly?"

"He's fine. Just needs to wake up."

"I want to see him."

"Unfortunately, he is under arrest. I cannot-"

"Lady Tsunade, don't arrest him. Please. Let me talk to him." Sakura pleaded. "Let him explain. Sasuke wouldn't do this-"

Tsunade scowled then answered. "I will hold the charges for now. You can talk to him when he wakes up. If I don't like what I hear-" She didn't' need to finish. Sakura got the point.

It was a heart-wrenching wait for Sasuke Uchiha to wake up. She never left his side. She glared murderously at anyone who tried to tell her to leave. When he did wake up, she nixed the idea of calling a nurse. "Sasuke?"

"Sakura? Where am I? What's going on?"

"You're in the hospital. You were in a fight."

"With what? A bull?" he groaned. Before she could answer, Tsunade entered the room. Sasuke tried to sit up, but a gentle push from Sakura prevented him.

"Sasuke Uchiha, you were supposed to be on a mission."

"I know." He rubbed the back of his head. "I delivered the message. I-I helped the village." He frowned. "Someone told me about-about a little girl stuck under a tree branch."

"Do you remember returning to the village?"

"No. I followed him-I heard the little girl crying." He shook his head. "Then-I woke up here." Tsunade glared at him but she opened the door, whispered to someone then took a seat in the corner and waited. Sakura felt like crying. Ino's father entered minutes later.

"Lady Tsuande?"

"We have a case of locked memories it seems."

"With his head injury, I could do some damage."

"I don't care." She said coldly and glared at Sakura when she started to protest. "He attacked a fellow shinobi. I will have the truth. Now."

"Then the lady should leave." He said referring to Sakura.

"N-No. I want to stay."

"It won't be pretty."

"He'll need me."

"Would someone enlighten me?" Sasuke said finally speaking up.

"Sasuke, you attacked Sakura yesterday. She was forced to defend herself and in the process injured you."

"You're lying!" he said. "I would never hurt her."

"You tried. Upon your testimony, foul play is implied. The motive is unclear. We will have to extract the events of your mission forcefully from your stored conscious." Sasuke was furious. He looked at Sakura, his eyes landing on her swollen neck. He touched it reverently and then let his hand fall away.

"DO what you must." He said and closed his eyes.

Naruto paced outside the door where his best friend screamed for help. Two ANBU blocked his way. He heard Sakura crying. More yelling and cursing. It went on for hours. He heard muffled voices then more screaming. Finally it stopped. He thought he'd been nervous when he heard the screaming. The silence made him want to loose his bowels and bladder. The door clicked open and an infuriated Tsunade came out. She glanced at Naruto but said nothing. She spoke quietly to the ANBU then went back into the room. He waited some more.

"Sakura, you know what this means."

"Yes."

"Gaara was the target but his feelings for you misdirected him. You saved the both of them."

"Am I a curse?" she asked running her hand over Sasuke's fevered face. She was using her genjutsu training to ease the headache she knew he must have.

"This is not your fault."

"I know but I beat him up. I beat him up."

"If you hadn't, you would be dead. And where would he be now?" Tsunade smiled. "At least now he knows not to mess with you."

"Darn right." Sasuke breathed and smiled softly. He didn't open his eyes though.

"I'll leave him in your capable hands." Tsunade said. "If one of us doesn't go out, Naruto will try to break the door in."

She tended his wounds personally for the next two weeks. Hardly a word was spoken. Gaara had been warned in time and the mutinous sand ninja were imprisoned before Temari could get her hands on them. She hummed to herself while he watched her silently. When his food was brought in, she had to feed him. His wounds were that serious. Concentrating on the mundane helped her forget about having to stumble through other embarrassing tasks. Luckily, Naruto visited regularly enough.

"Are you ever going to get over that?" he asked around some rice.

"Stop bringing it up." She said. Her cheeks burned.

"It was only-"

"Sasuke Uchiha, don't you say one more word." She said softly.

"I never knew you were so shy." He teased.

"Sasuke, this isn't-" she paused and inhaled. "Just drop it."

"What are you going to do when Naruto isn't here?" he teased.

"Let's hope he's not."

"Tsunade would kill you if you let me mess up her pretty bed."

"Would you stop?"

"It's not like you haven't seen-"

"Sasuke!" she groaned. "I have seen many but I had never seen yours much less t-to-touch it." He smiled at her stuttering. He could see why Naruto thought Hinata was so cute.

"You'll have to get used to it." He took another mouthful of food, chewed then spoke again. "You'll be see and touching it a lot in the future."

"You won't need me to help you relieve yourself in the future." She pointed out.

"No. Not in that way anyway." He smiled when she turned bright red. "You have warm hands."

"And you're perverted." He ate in silence after that

"Sakura-I'm sorry."

"F-For what?"

"The incident. I would never-"

"I know." She said cutting him off.

"I might have beat up Gaara for touching you but I would never-"

"I'm not yours, Sasuke." She said offended.

"Not yet."

"Sasuke-"

"Give me a chance, Sakura. I'm not so bad." He said.

"Don't be sweet and endearing." She said but walked back to the bed and took his hand. "Conceit is more your style." She teased.

"The chase is fun but I feel like I'm losing you. I've felt like that since you turned thirteen."

"Could have fooled me."

"I almost fooled myself." He threaded their fingers and squeezed gently. "When you said you would ask Gaara to give you your fist kiss-"

"So that's why you agreed."

"On some level." He said softly. "But I was curious too. I wanted to know if I could feel anything outside of hate. Loneliness."

"And did you?" she asked.

"It's like you broke the dam that day. Seeing you with Riku made me crazy. And when you were with Gaara-I'm lucky to have friends like Naruto. I would have embarrassed us both."

"You could have just said something."

"I had to prove it to myself and you that I wanted you. That I needed you. Plus it was fun." He brought her hand to his cheek and caressed it. "DO you think I am forgiven?"

"By who?"

"That crazy chick that beat me up." He said and smiled. "Maybe she'll come out and play a few times with us." He teased. Sakura shoved him but smiled.

"So what now?"

"That's up to you." He said and she glared at him. "It's always been up to you. No teasing. No flirting. No getting you hot and bothered." He promised.

"When you saw me kissing Gaara, it was for closure. Don't get it wrong though. I am attracted him. He's sorta like you. Dark and moody. Silent. Full of emotions. Capable of so much love. But I guess I still had the tiniest of crushes on you."

"Just a crush?"

"Don't push it, Uchiha." She said and glared. "You deserve to suffer for teasing me for all those months."

"Sakura-"

"Don't do something stupid like ask me to marry you." She smiled at the blush-a rarity if she ever saw one.

"But-"

"I'm sure you do." She said reading his thoughts. "But how about we try out being friends first. Then we say where it goes."

"If you say so." He said.

It took two weeks before Sasuke was released from the hospital. And it took them three more days before Sakura walked down the aisle. "If I see you even breathe in one of those girl's general direction, I'll kill you." She warned, speaking of his still active fan club.

"I only have eyes for you, Sakura." He said sighing.

"Don't sigh at me, Sasuke Uchiha."

"Stop worrying."

"I hope you can do the same when Gaara is in town. Which he will be tomorrow. And you know as ambassador, I have to escort him."

"Over my dead body." Sasuke said.

"Hmmm. That can be arranged."

"Come here." He pulled her into his lap. "I love you."

"So I've heard." She said in a bored tone but giggled when he tickled her side. "Fine. I love you too."

"It warms my heart." He said with baleful glare.

"How about we make use of that bed you have. Then you can show me around the compound. Need to know how many rooms I need to fill." She said playing with the hair on his neck.

"I like your thinking. Plus we need to catch up on Naruto. The idiot hadn't thought to get married before he started spawning."

"Do you have a marriage planned for this baby or something?"

"No one will be good enough for my little girl. Naruto's spawn will be close enough." He kissed her neck.

"How about we stop talking and put in some hours?"

"I agree completely."

"By the way, just when were you going to tell me, I am your first and only kiss?" she laughed at the startled expression on his face. Retribution would be sweet.