HI GUYS! Apologies for the extremely long wait, despite my hopeless promises of attempting to update faster!

It was mean of me to leave you guys hanging _ and

THANKS SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR AWESOME REVIEWS AND COMMENTS! It's impossible to put to words how much they mean to me :)

I have learnt my lesson now ._. and will no longer promise fast updates as I don't know if I can keep them, though they WILL come, schoolwork is burying me without mercy, so it may be some time before the next chapter, though I won't leave it for too long! I write bits and pieces in my spare time, and I will DEFINITELY not leave this unfinished!

The chapter is a little different! (It was my fourth draft T_T )

So without further ado:

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto!

CHAPTER FIFTEEN COMMEEEEEEENCE! :D (I hope you like it - And yeah, I did end up having to change the name AND I just rewrote the ending because I was sleep deprived on my first go and it sucked _ )

~ChApTeR 15: RoUnD TwO: ThE TrUtH~

So. What do you do when a sweat-soaked, desperate Uchiha asks you to accompany him, platonically for a night? You freaking stay. That's what. Why, you may ask, would I do that to a guy who I have said several times prior that I hate and cannot stand? (Roughly that idea)

Because he was still semi-asleep, and had managed to snare my arm into a vice-like, bone-shattering grip. Ouch.

Nice try though. Might've had a bit of trouble answering that question if it had not been for that fact.

For obvious, uncomfortable reasons, I remained wide awake for the better part of the night, and when I did manage to fall asleep – or rather, passed out as a more appropriate term, I toppled onto him (sort of like if the Hokage Tower was to fall down like a domino, Kami forbid). It wasn't some sort of romantic, compromising position, in fact, I'm pretty sure I heard a whoosh of breath being quite literally knocked out of him as I landed. But at that point, I was too sleep-deprived to care.

Now. That was the easy part. Waking up, not so much. First thing I realised was that I was lying on a very hard surface – and that Uchiha had some serious ab-age going on there. The fact that his whole body was as tense as a board was not helping.

"You're awake." He coughed lightly, not very subtly trying to roll me off him.

"Urmaghhh." I replied intelligently. It was dawn. And I had slept for an hour. It'll take a while to kickstart my brain.

I lifted myself into a sitting position and stretched.

Then I saw it. The answer to a question that I, and undoubtedly half of the male population in Konoha had frequently wondered and envied over:

Just how does Uchiha get his hair into that oddly fashionable Chicken Arse style?

There was an era when many of the males were unsuccessfully trying to replicate it, which quickly subsided after their realising that they actually looked like a Chicken's Arse after it.

The answer was right in front of me. BED HAIR. If they knew that in reality, Uchiha was just too damn lazy to comb his hair, they would've shot themselves over spending so much money on the hair wax.

The humor would've amused me if I wasn't so cranky.

"Had a good sleep?" I asked sarcastically, trying to get some feeling back into my arm by the general wind-mill action.

"Hn. You?"

WELL. On the floor for about three hours. Pincer grip on my arm, what the hell do you think? Unfortunately, I was constantly reminded with an annoying ba-thump that the Uchiha had actually allowed me to use him as my futon for those said three hours.

"Meh." I shrugged, deciding to let it go, I glanced at him wearily, "You alright now? Was it a bad dream last night?"

He grunted, "Something like that."

"Want to talk about it?"


"Ah." I bit my lip. I didn't know if I was disappointed or slightly relieved that he didn't say more on the topic, but I didn't want to pressure him. It was pretty much a given that bad memories would seep about when you returned to the place where you basically saw your whole family killed. Admittedly, I was a bit worried that he was about to crawl back into his antisocial shell again.

He cleared his throat, and I realised that the silence had stretched for a really long time.

"So." He nodded at the door, "I need to get changed..."

"Oh." I looked down and my own pyjamas and felt the blood rush to my head, "Yeah, me too, I mean, in my room, not yours -"

Oh Kami, stop talking. Now.

The Uchiha smirked, "Unless of course you want to stay and watch."

I was mortified. I gaped at him, then scurried to my feet and waited for my mouth to say something intelligent. After a few more seconds of me looking like a goldfish out of the water, I just settled for an angry mix of incoherent words before slamming the door behind me.

"I'm sorry stranger, have we met before?" Ino asked sarcastically, stopping me from entering, "Where have you been for the latter portion of my life?"

I apologized, pouted, made excuses and then finally pulled out the ultimate piece offering from my weapons poach. Chocolate.

Ino eyed it for two seconds before huffing and putting the chocolate in her nightgown pocket, "That's more like it." She stepped aside from the doorway and let me in. I made a move to go upstairs, but she held up an arm to bar me.

"No way," She grinned, "It's gonna take a bit more ass-kissing for you to enjoy the floweriness of my room again." I raised an eyebrow and she shrugged, "Daddy's asleep, he hasn't be sleeping well lately so I don't you and your clomping feet to wake him up." She pulled a face at me.

"Give me two seconds," She said, pushing me towards the living room, "I just need to grab a hair tie."

I blinked, and then plopped myself on the couch. Something told me that something was wrong upstairs, and as curious as I was, I wasn't going to ruin my good behavior probation thing. Ino returned a minute later, looking a little flushed. She sat down on the chair next to me.

"So what brings you in front of my awesome presence, right before your second round?" She grabbed a cushion and looked at me curiously. Yes. That's what I want to know as well.

"I needed some… air." I tried. As immature as it sounded, I didn't want to wait with Uchiha for about half hour for Kakashi to show up.

Ino raised an eyebrow, and gave me a calculating scan, "Is that so. Or… you're too broke to afford a proper psychiatrist. Spill Forehead. Now."

I denied it weakly for a while, until I realized that she was Ino, and even if she wasn't right, she would make it out so that she was. And she was. Right that is. I caught her up on everything, the fire, the manor, and yesterday night. She listened patiently, making small remarks now and then but stayed silent throughout most of it.

"I see," She grinned, "Uchiha asking Sai for advice, now that's some interesting goss."

I laughed, "Don't be too hard on him, he really tried."

"Yeah, I can see that, and you even got a nice cuddle out of it." She looked at me thoughtfully, "So, he burnt down your house and hugged you, and he's still in one piece today?" Her face lit up. With evilness. I swear. "So…you like him." Ino translated.

I looked at her, sort of stuck between a horrified and embarrassed look, "What?" I choked, "Haven't you already asked me this about ten times in the last two months?"

"And yet I never get the same answer."

I was about to protest when I realized that, shit, she was right.

And she might be right about me liking him too. But there was just one more thing that stopped me from admitting it.

"He left me." I said, still trying to wrap my head around how, how vulnerable I'd be again if I followed that path again, "That time."

"Sakura… thank you."

It was the first time that I had really resented those words.

Ino glanced at me, "But you're over that." She replied softly.

I was struck by her words, "No, I'm not" was my reflexive answer, but then I realized that yes, I was. If Uchiha had done something at least since his return, it was prove to me that there was something different about him. The bench thing still hurt, like a painful memory does, but I, disgustingly so, could understand why he did it.

"Sakura," Ino prodded gently, "I don't think he'll do that this time."

"Then I might just kill him instead of bring him back." I joked weakly, trying to distract myself from all of this, but Ino didn't fall for it.

"I think you're a bit scared." Ino said thoughtfully, "Opening yourself up to that again, I think you're scared it all repeating, and that you'll be hurt even more this time."

I stared at her, "You're really scary sometimes you know," I laughed, "It's frightening how much you know."

"I've been through it too before remember?" She reminded me, smiling, "But I don't regret taking that chance. Plus, you've never really asked him why."

"Apart from leaving Konoha for a pedophile with the longest tongue in the world?"

We sat in comfortable silence for a while, dwelling upon what was said. Suddenly, Ino looked at the clock,

"Hey, Forehead. Aren't you gonna be late?"

I looked too, and realized that for once Kakashi was probably going to arrive before me, and he would make sure I would regret it.

"Oh Kami, crap." I hurriedly grabbed my things, and said seriously, "Thanks for all the advice Ino-pig, and for listening."

She made a face, "It was all very soppy Forehead, but it's interesting. I need some drama in my life." She winked.

"Wait." I paused in getting up, "I thought that you didn't like Uchiha."

"Yeah, I didn't." She shrugged, "But, he's saved your sorry ass more times than I can count already, and I guess that qualifies him for about half of the knight in shining armor."

"What happened to the other half?" I asked, then held up my hand, "Wait, don't answer that, otherwise I'm really going to be late."

"Just not enough time in the day." Ino grinned and gave me a quick hug, "Don't ditch for so long again Forehead," she warned, "otherwise you're going to need to get me a whole chocolate store to patch things up."

I was just about to leave, when I heard someone coming down the stairs. I turned to greet Ino's dad and apologize for possibly waking him.

"Is she gone ye - oh." The footsteps stopped dead on the staircase.

I glanced at him and back at the pink Ino,

"You need drama in your life?" I echoed, gesturing to the scene, "I think you've got enough for the two of us."

She choked and held up her hands in surrender, "Nothing happened!" she squeaked defensively,

I smiled sweetly, "Mm-hmm. I don't think you have to worry about anymore infrequent visits Ino-pig, I'll definitely be seeing you soon for an explanation of this." I gestured to the scene in front of me, "And Shikamaru, two things next time. One: put your shirt on, and two: leave through the window. With your IQ, I'm pretty sure you can imagine what Ino's 'daddy' will do to you if he found you."

I'm pretty sure he blanched a couple of shades. I winked and saw myself out.

I made it to the training grounds just three minutes before Kakashi, who was supposed to show up and offer us some last minute tips, but. Well. He's Kakashi. He is last minute. And thank Kami for that. Uchiha was looking relaxed, though a bit muddy. As was Naruto.

"I hope you two didn't wear yourselves out." I commented, glancing at a cut on Naruto's cheek, he waved me off.

"Just a bearing my manly scars," He beamed proudly.

"Yes, which is disappearing as we speak," I said dryly, watching the wound shrink, "So does that mean your manliness is also disappearing?"

Naruto blinked, "No!" He protested, patting his cheek, "Uh, it's being absorbed back into awesomeness."

Uchiha snorted. I looked at him for a few seconds, the conversation with Ino playing over and over in my head, when should I bring the bench thing up? Is there ever a right time for this kind of stuff? Would it disrupt the 'bond' we were starting to make?

Would I care if it did? It was hard to say. And serious thinking requires some serious food, so I put the problem away for when I had some snacks in my hand.

I seemed to be able to look at him without the embarrassment of this morning though.

The scene at Ino's was priceless. Funniest was Shikamaru's embarrassed and sheepish face though I have to admit that he actually had a pretty nice six pack going on there for someone who prefers to sleep and play Shougi and Go.

I chuckled at the thought of those two stammering their excuses. Uchiha eyed me curiously,

"Why are you so happy?" Uchiha asked, seemingly stoic.

"Oh, nothing, no reason." I grinned wickedly, his face twitched.

"Hey Naruto," I said brightly, "You know Uchiha drools in his sleep?"

Naruto spluttered, and then burst out in peals of laughter. Uchiha glared at me, I smiled my most angelic and innocent smile back.

"Annoying." Uchiha muttered, whacking Naruto on the head.

"OW. TEME." Naruto countered, "At least I know how to create a romantic atmosphere without lighting someone's house on fire"

Uchiha glowered, "Dobe. At least I don't go out to the same restaurant every single night."

Naruto scowled and thought for a while, "Hold up a second here," he narrowed his eyes at Uchiha, and pointed at him accusingly, "at least I've made her dinner occasionally, have you made dinner for Sakura-chan?"

Uchiha frowned himself, "I have."

"No way," I interrupted, "Dinner generally means something with more than three components in it Uchiha, tomatoes only counts as one." I looked at Naruto who's ego at winning a verbal argument was inflating by the minute, "Naruto, making cup ramen doesn't count as dinner either."

Naruto looked so shocked that I had to laugh, "Sakura-chan!" He protested, "It's got noodles, carrots and meat!" He waggled three fingers at me, "DINNER."

Uchiha looked at me, "Was there something you wanted to eat?" He asked bluntly, eyes boring into mine.

"Um," My eyes tried to look everywhere else but at him, "Well…"

At that moment, a bird chose to gift Naruto with his excrements. Naruto scrunched his face up,

"EW!" He yelled, hands waving about, wanting to wipe it off his hair yet not wanting to touch it, "DUDE! YOU GET BACK HERE! THAT WAS TOTALLY UNCALLED FOR!"

Call me a bad friend but I silently thanked that bird, my mind had suddenly blanked out and now at least, there was a distraction. I looked at Naruto, who had a tearful expression.

"Oh calm down you," I grinned, "It's just ink."

"What?" He choked, "Like a flying squid or something?"

"Dobe." Sasuke mumbled, bored.

On cue, Sai appeared, looking rather satisfied with himself, the ink withdrew from Naruto's hair and back into his inkpot, "Surprise," he gave Naruto his smile, "Heard you almost got your head loped off by your last opponent dickless, that would've been a shame, I would've had to call you dickless and headless then."

Before Naruto opened his mouth to retort, Kakashi appeared. "Wait!" He said loudly, holding both hands up in surrender before we get yell at him, "I have a legit excuse this time!"

We looked at him unconvinced. "No seriously," He nodded, pulling out an orange book. Oh my. I wonder what that could be. "The Icha Icha Paradise fan book came out today; I had to wait in line for six hours to get it!"

He looked so proud of himself that I was speechless. Naruto's face was comical, "You." He stated, "Are so lame sensei, you gotta get yourself a girlfriend."

I bit back a laugh, even seeing a glimmer of a smirk on Uchiha's face. Kakashi bristled,

"What are you talking about? The ladies love me, I just don't want to settle down," He said flippantly.

"Oh," Sai said, looking confused, "So yesterday afternoon when the lady slapped you at the bar and called you those names, that was also a way of expressing affection? It must be rather advanced; I have not read up to that part in the book yet."

"Why – How – What were you –" Kakashi sighed exasperatedly, "Never mind, I'd rather not know."

"It was merely for educational purposes," Sai offered anyway ignoring the fact that Kakashi looked ready to castrate him, "I am now on the observational level of my emotional development."

He glared at Naruto who was laughing so hard that tears were coming out of his eyes.

I was laughing too. And then I looked around, really looked around.

Sai was actually showing a rather rare smile, Kakashi and Naruto good-heartedly bantering as usual and Sasuke looked as though he was bored with the scene but there was a slight raise to his brow which softened his features, he glanced at me.

As cliché as it was, I suddenly felt really happy. I smiled at him.

This wasn't like the 'old Team 7' at all, no matter how many times Naruto nicknamed it that. It was much, much better.


"Haruno Sakura, contestant 1536, head to the stadium now, Haruno Sakura."

Finally. I breathed a sigh of relief.

I kept getting the feeling that today had been going too well. Where was the chaos? I was definitely going to verse that red-haired girl today. Right after Karin as well, was I getting any points for wiping these girls off the market?

But when I reached the actual arena, I realized that no, it wasn't her. Unless she had aged about fifteen years, lost all her hair and had become a male in the space of a day.

Who didn't put up much of a fight by the way, ran away from me for about ten minutes before his stamina ran out, and got unconscious after one un-chakra-loaded punch to the stomach.

Someone tell me how he made it this far.

I sighed, a little disappointed I didn't get to show the judges some more. As they carted him off, and heard someone yelling. Looking up, I saw Hinata and Naruto and Uchiha looking at me. I offered a small wave and smile before heading to the medical ward for an obligatory check-up.

When I walked up the stairs to join the audience, the first thing I saw was Naruto waving furiously and Hinata trying to stop him from whacking the guy next to him.

"SAKURA-CHAN! CONGRATULATIONS!" He hollered, then pointing frantically at the seat beside Hinata. I grinned and walked up to join him, seeing Hinata lightly chastise him about exhausting his bandaged arm, to which Naruto sheepishly mumbled something in reply.

"Aw, you two lovebirds are making me feel all lonely." I cackled wickedly, watching a blush spread over Hinata's face.

"Sakura-chan," Hinata smiled, "Congratulations."

Naruto grinned, "Yeah, though there could've been more action."

I nodded in agreement, "It's so weird, I thought that this round would be much tougher."

I noticed something, or rather someone, was missing.

"Where's Uchiha?"

I looked through the crowd again half-heartedly; I had just seen him, where could he have possibly gone? Unless he took a toilet break?

Uchiha's don't have bladders. I could just hear him say that as a retort. Great. I really am going nuts.

"Oh," Naruto looked around, "He was just here…and then he left."

I tried not to chuckle, very useful Naruto.

"Oh?" I tried to sound disinterested, "Do you know where he went?"

Naruto looked at my slyly with a slight waggle to his eyebrows, "Oh? Why?"

"I'm his babysitter basically," I added hastily, trying to divert him from whatever scary and strange things he was thinking of, "If he gets into any trouble, it'll be my non-sole-heir-to-the-clan head rolling around."

Naruto shrugged, "Whatever you say, but I really don't know anything." He earned a bonk to the head for his efforts. I didn't see much action going on in the arena either and didn't really want to interrupt Naruto and Hinata's couple time, so I stood to leave.

"Sakura-chan," she tugged at my sleeve, "Won't you watch the rest of the matches with me?" She smiled sweetly. I looked at her, than at Naruto, who looked equally confused.

"Are you sure? I don't want to be intruding on you two's time together."

"You won't be." She patted the seat again. Naruto blinked a few times, then shrugged, we spent the rest of the time talking about the matches and the opponents.

The red-haired girl resurfaced, and her skills were impressive. She was quick and evasive, rapidly putting her opponent into a tough position and ending the match. But to my disgust, she continued to beat at her opponent even after he had fallen unconscious, until the examiner had to threaten her to stop. I didn't get to see her comrades though; they had gone before me. Naruto told me about their matches, obviously impressed with their skills but again, chilled by their unrelenting nature towards their opponent.

I couldn't help but side glance at Naruto and Hinata sometimes.

The two of them were really good together. There were subtle and perhaps unconscious contact between them, Hinata was slightly angled in to Naruto when they sat, and Naruto had placed his hand over Hinata's, giving it an occasional squeeze.

It was sweet and kind of weird seeing them together like that. It was a different side to Naruto that I hadn't seen before; he was very gentle with Hinata. Hinata seemed more confident when she was with him as well.

I was happy for them, but there was a bit of jealousy floating around on my part too. Shikamaru and Ino, Naruto and Hinata, everyone else's lives seemed to be fitting with ease. Sure they both had hitches, but compared to my past with Uchiha, they were pretty small.I wondered if I was ever going to get anything like it, or if I should just start saving up on cats now so that I have a good stock of them for when I'm old and lonely.

I headed towards the manor after the match had ended (almost took the route to my house instead), leaving Naruto and Hinata to walk back to the Hyuuga household.

When I reached the Uchiha manor, I saw his shoes and that the lights were on.

"Uchiha?" I hung my bag up by the coat stand, there was a strange smell wafting through the house.

The dining room was dimly lit with a single candle in the middle of the table, which was already set. Seeing the candle gave me a minor heart attack, and I nearly had an urge to blow it out before something else destructive happened. I followed the sound into the kitchen.

Uchiha was there dicing some potatoes, his face furrowed in concentration.

Wearing an apron.

My apron from my house, the frilly one. I never thought I would've seen the day, where was my camera when I needed it? Team 7 is never going to believe this without proof. I gave a light cough and he almost dropped the knife, "I'm back," I grinned, "What's going on?"

"Making dinner." He replied, head ducked.

I leaned on the door frame, and cocked a brow, "Oh really? What's the occasion?"

"Hn." Uchiha tossed the potatoes into a pot, "Nothing. Just wanted to."

I saw the bench top lined with cooking books, with bookmarks everywhere. I took in the scene; everything suddenly clicking.

No wonder Hinata wanted me to stay with them; she must've pushed the Uchiha along. I smiled. This was definitely Uchiha proving Naruto wrong.

"Hold up a second here, at least I've made her dinner occasionally, have you ever made dinner for Sakura-chan?"

If Naruto knew that Uchiha had taken his words to heart, he would most probably dub himself the 'Love Master of All Awesomeness'.

"Can I have a sneak peak?" I asked, rubbing my stomach and walking over to the pot. It was filled with soup, consisting mainly of tomatoes, but with some other spices and things thrown in there as well.

It smelt nice; there was a tangy sort of aroma to it.

"Need some help?" I grinned, taking off my gloves. He finally took his eyes off of the chopping board and glanced at me. I saw that the temptation was great but his Uchiha pride refused it for him.

"Hn. Go take a shower." He replied before turning his attention back to things in front of him.

I grinned playfully, "No burning the house down this time, I don't think we have another place to go."


Although I was just a little bit worried leaving him in there, and what sort of dishes he'd lay out, it had been a very long time since someone had made dinner for me.

I took advantage of the situation. I grinned at him then grabbed my towel and scooted towards the showers before he could change his mind.


By the time I came out, dinner was already laid out on the table. The dancing flame of the candle set a pleasant atmosphere.

Uchiha was just finishing up laying out the cutlery and waited for me to take a seat before he did.

"Thanks, this looks amazing." I said, stunned as I looked at the array of dishes in front of me, I knew I was salivating.

"Hn." He said, though, he looked embarrassed. I smiled again.

"I see there's only one candle today," I said teasingly, taking a bite of the meat.

He smirked, "I don't make the same mistake twice." He replied seriously, "And the convenience store refused to give me more after last time."

I grinned. We had small conversation while eating, but to be honest I don't remember most of it. It was mainly about some of the changes in Konoha, people and places that we'd gone, carefully omitting the reason for why we had gone there.

I looked at him a few times during the meal (okay, more than a few times), really looked at him though. He was slightly different to how I thought he looked, his skin was still pale and he was still rather good looking; there was just a calmer and more comfortable air about him.

And, I won't deny it; a guy who can cook is attractive. Good thing his fan girls don't know about this, otherwise we'd have a serious privacy problem on our hands.

The food was delicious; everything was literally cooked to perfection. Who'd have thought that Uchiha had an inner housewife side? Next thing I know, he could be telling me that he realized that Uchiha's can procreate by themselves too.

I glanced at him sitting on the chair just diagonally from where I was, dinner had ended almost an hour ago and now we were sitting in the living room comfortably doing some reading. For me, it was all the medicine notes that I had disgracefully neglected since the Exam started. To my dismay, the pile had completely snowballed; Tsunade often gives out a heck of a lot more work when she's prohibited from alcohol.

Uchiha had found some old jutsu's stored in the ancient, dusty library in the Uchiha manor and was carefully wiping the dust off each cover as he read them.

Was this the right time to ask? Again, it didn't feel like I could ever do it, but in a way, I wanted closure desperately now, just some proof that he had changed, and that I wouldn't go through emotional torture again this time.

He glanced up at me, "What's wrong?"

Wow. He won't know how much he'll regret asking me that.

Might as well just be out with it and get it over and done with.

"Uchiha…" I trailed off as he kept staring, almost losing my confidence. Slowly. "I know that it's been a long time and all, but that time you left me on the bench, why did you do it?"

He knew exactly what moment I was talking about (Kami forgive he should forget, that'd be my cue to punch his lights out). His eyes widened slightly in surprise yet his face reflexively returned to his usual stoic expression.

"You left me on the bench Uchiha," I clenched my fists at the memory, "after I told you that I loved you, and that I would follow you anywhere. Why couldn't you have taken me?"

There was a silence as I waited for his answer. He set the books down, and rubbed his eyes, exhaling slowly. When he opened them again, they weren't bleary and tired looking anymore.

"I left you because," he said slowly, "you would have delayed the time taken to achieve my goal."

I left you because you couldn't have handled it.

I left you because I didn't love you.

I left you because I loved you.

All these years, I had imagined up thousands of different scenarios in my mind, more often than not, with Uchiha saying some line that would instantly make me forgive him, make me sympathize with him, and make me regret hating him for all these years.

It didn't prepare me, as I thought it would, for the moment when I would actually hear the truth from his own mouth.

There was a pang of hurt, which I suspected would have jumped onto me regardless of his answer.

It wasn't the answer I wanted to hear, and it wasn't one that dissolved my guard. I felt short of breath and a bit pained, but at the same time, mildly glad that he didn't try to lie to me.

"You just left me there." I swallowed hard, focusing on my breathing so that I wouldn't start crying.

"If I had taken you back to the house, there was a greater risk that I would've been stopped by another person."

Naruto. Kakashi. Tsunade. Yeah, the possibilities of that happening were endless. No. In a way, he was lucky that it had only been me. Just Sakura. Easily overpowered and emotionally swayed.

Why had Tsunade-sensei let just me go then? Why not Naruto? My mind was raging with questions of why I was picked, when they knew that I was physically unmatched to the Uchiha.

"Sakura," His voice was low and steady, "We were both very different people back then. I was bent on revenge, I needed to fulfill it, and I felt like the drive and the thirst for it faded with every day I spent with you and Naruto. I had to leave."

"What if Naruto or Kakashi had gone to bring you back? You would have accepted their offer." I shook my head regretfully, "Tsunade-sensei made a mistake. I was completely unfit to convince you to stay."

"No, she was right in her decision. If Naruto and Kakashi had come, it would've come to blows. Without a doubt. I might've been kept here by force, but I would've always been trying to get out. But with you, Tsunade-sama knew that you were the one with the most chance of changing my intentions and motives."

I just stared, speechless.

"It almost worked. But I couldn't let it. I didn't take you because I knew you could sway me from my objective," Uchiha replied quietly, "You made me forget that I was a Uchiha, and you made me forget that I had to utilize and grow my hatred in order to defeat my brother."

I finally found my voice. "I could've swayed you?" I chuckled, incredulous, "Uchiha, your mind was like a rock. You never heeded to anything that I had said to you. I don't think that I could've possibly changed anything."

He was silent for a moment. "Do you remember that day in the Forest of Death?"

"Which one?" I asked warily.

"The one when I woke up with the curse seal."

I nodded, I mean, it had been a pretty big day hadn't it? It was the first time that I had been tested by myself. With both Sasuke and Naruto unconscious, I had never felt a more paralyzing fear than I had on that day, feeling helpless and hopeless. I had forgone my vanity and shallowness that day, but more importantly, it had been the day that he had started to slip from our grasps.

"When the curse seal spread, it was like…electricity running through my veins. It was close to bliss, to feel that the rage and hatred in me had been changed to power, that I could use all the anger that had built up, and become stronger. But then, you…," He struggled to keep going, "You made those things disappear. And it was as if it all had dissolved. I forgot. It was done so simply, and faded so easily that I was scared." His voice lowered at the end of it, as he furrowed with concentration to continue.

My face reddened. The 12-year old girl within me was happy and pleased that she had had an influence on the Uchiha, but as for me, I was regretful. I finally knew how close I had come to allowing him to stay here, but then in a way, I knew that if he remained, the possibility of what could of happened if he had hunted down his brother would have haunted him for the rest of his life.

"I wanted something to return to." He said simply, voice lilting a bit as if he was also just discovering this himself, "I wanted a home to return to. With both you and Naruto there, waiting, remaining as you were, without being pulled into my past."

I closed my eyes, exhaling, trying to process everything. When I opened them, I realized he was still looking at me.

Believe me. Uchiha's expression pleaded, though his pride hindered him from saying so. I realized that he had not attempted to look away from me the entire time when he was telling me this. He was leaning forward, looking into my eyes with every word he uttered.

I got up from my chair and walked over till I was in front of him. He tensed, obviously unsure how I had taken this. I lowered myself so that I was staring him eye to eye, he shifted back unconsciously as I got close.

I slapped him as hard as I could, releasing years of anguish and pain. The sound echoed through the house. I'm sure he saw it coming, but he made no attempt to stop it. His head turned back so he was facing me again.

"You're a baka you know that? You're the dobe." I choked out, my throat constricting, "How could you think that we wouldn't go after you? How could we have been a proper home to you if you were sitting in maximum security prison?"

I inwardly sighed of exasperation as my tears dropped, blinking rapidly so that I could speak again and cry later. Uchiha was frozen in his seat and for the first time, openly showing an expression of alarm. I hastily wiped them off. We stared at each other in silence for a while, as my breathing shallowed.

It was all gone. Years of wondering. Years of resenting myself. And in the last hour, someone had untangled the mess. It was the first time that things had made sense in a long while, and I was unsure what to do with the sudden clarity of the situation.

I raised my hand again; he made a slight twitch, obviously not wanting to be hit again. I placed it on his cheek, cooling the stinging warmth that I had left there, and in a rush, wrapped my arms around him.

"Thank you for telling me." I murmured over and over, "I really needed to hear that."

I pulled back a little and looked him in the eyes. He was tense but there was relief in his eyes. There was a disbelief that suddenly, everything was out in the open. I gave him a big watery grin.

"Welcome home Sasuke."

It had been a long time since I had sincerely called him that directly rather than "Uchiha". And he knew it. His eyes softened and his body relaxed.

Before I knew it, his arms tentatively circled my back and returned the gesture. We stayed like that for a while, just taking solace in the ease of the atmosphere, as if a huge weight had been lifted over both of our shoulders.

I officially ruined his shirt by crying a puddle onto it whilst he patted my back awkwardly, but gently.

Through all my hiccupping and sniffling, I felt warm drops of tears drip onto my own back, his own tears, despite their supposed lightness, releasing his many years of burden and regret.

~NeXt Up: ChApTeR 16: BrEaK~

Hope it didn't disappoint!

I know it was a bit shorter than usual, but I reckoned that it was about time that the air was cleared between the two of them, Cupid must be mortified that his arrows took so long to take effect on both of them :)

I MEAN UCHIHA CRYING, THAT'S GOTTA BE NEW. I just thought that it would be a strong moment for him in particular, to let go of everything that he's been holding back for the last couple of years, and for being officially accepted back into the lives of all his comrades - gotta be something big right? :D

Agree, Disagree, Like, Don't Like, I'm looking to your reviews as always, regardless of the content :D And also, as always, if you guys have any suggestions, give me a shout :D And I'll try to integrate them into the plot, but,

THE STORYWILLBE ENDING IN ABOUT 3, 4 OR 5!I refuse to drag it out unnecessarily :D