Finally Dealing with the Fallout

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Note: Contains recent manga spoilers.

That said, this is my version of therapy to try and salvage some form of respect for Sakura, which the recent manga chapters have completely destroyed for me. And the way that she's just taking for granted that Naruto's in love with her and thus will automatically listen to her and will remain in love with her no matter what she does is really annoying as well. This isn't Sakura-bashing but her entitled assumption about her and Naruto will not pay off. I was trying to salvage my respect for her by working through my frustrations so it will probably not salvage her for other people.

Also, this lists Naruto and Sakura as the characters because they are the two biggest characters in the piece. It is NOT Naruto/Sakura. Please don't read this expecting to find that and then send me a review complaining about the fact it isn't.

"Hey Sai, where's Naruto?" Sakura asked.

Of course, Sai – being Sai – could never just answer a question like a normal person. "Why are you looking for him?"

"We haven't really talked since I declared my undying love for him and then went off to try and find Sasuke," Sakura replied promptly.

"It is a shame that we could not find him," Sai said idly. "Still, given that Naruto himself has only managed to locate him once in four years, perhaps it is not all that surprising."

"Yeah…" Sakura sighed. "Still, we'll run into Sasuke eventually, I suppose."

"And kill him," Sai added.

Sakura swallowed heavily. "And kill him."

"Don't you think you should at some point tell Naruto?" Sai queried.

"I tried, I really did, but he just wouldn't listen to me," Sakura said ruefully, shaking her head.

Sai raised an eyebrow. "You realize that I was there, right?"

"Yes, why?" Sakura asked, puzzled.

"You said something to the effect of 'I love you and Sasuke's off committing grievous crimes so let's forget him'," Sai told her.

Sakura waited for him to continue. When it appeared as though he was not planning to, she prompted, "And?"

"You didn't really do much to convince him and you left without mentioning our decision to kill Sasuke." Sai paused. "Which was the whole point of leaving."

"I didn't want to hurt him," Sakura said quietly. "I'll get to it eventually!"

"Seeing as how Naruto is the only one of us even remotely in Sasuke's league if even half of what we've heard of the battle at the Kage Summit is true…" Sai trailed off. "If your bond with them both is making this difficult for you, I could always-"

"No, it has to be me," Sakura cut him off. "He's in love with me, after all."

Kiba, who was passing by, felt the need to correct her, "No, he's in love with Sasuke."

"Where'd you get an idea like that from?" Sakura demanded.

Kiba grinned, looking very much like he'd been dying to say this for quite some time. "He's been obsessively chasing him for three years now and was obsessive about him before he left And if you think about all the girls who practically throw themselves at him…yet all he's interested in is Sasuke."

"I'm going to kill you slowly and painfully," Sakura promised. Being forced to give up once and for all on Sasuke (getting over him was one thing, agreeing to be an agent of his destruction was quite another) was bad enough, but hearing Kiba spouting off about how Naruto was really in love with him and not her? SO not what she wanted to hear.

"Weren't you looking for Naruto?" Sai reminded her, managing to be tactful for once.

"Oh, that's right. Since we're in love, we should probably start dating," Sakura decided. "He can't be too experienced if his total lack of action has lead Kiba to convince himself Naruto's gay so I'll just start by letting him buy me ramen."

"I never said he was gay," Kiba replied.

"You said he was in love with Sasuke," Sakura pointed out.

"That I did. I would like to take this opportunity to inform you that I refuse to believe you're in love with him because that was the least convincing confession I've ever heard," Kiba said bluntly.

"Yeah, well you also think Sasuke and Naruto are in love, so you don't exactly have the most credibility here," Sakura shot back.

"Whatever you say, Sakura. But if you're looking for Naruto, I saw him in Ichiraku's earlier," Kiba said, pointing in the direction of the former ramen shop in case Sakura had somehow forgotten where it was.

"Of course," Sakura said, rolling her eyes. Reluctantly, she offered a half-hearted, "Thank you. I'll just go and-"

"With Hinata," Kiba clarified.

Sakura froze for a moment. "What…" she shook her head. "They're friends, there's nothing strange about that. Especially if he manages to talk her into paying…"

"This is the first I've seen them together since Hinata finally confessed and they looked happy," Kiba countered.

"Naruto didn't notice Hinata's liked him for half of their lives, I think that denotes a lack of interest on his part," Sakura said frostily. "And besides, I thought you said Naruto likes Sasuke."

"I did," Kiba agreed. "But I'm sure Hinata wouldn't mind sharing."

Sakura just stared incredulously at him. "…Kiba? I know Hinata's extremely nice and all, but she's not that accepting."

"It's always the quiet ones who are the kinkiest," Kiba said wisely.

"There are no words… I'm going to go find Naruto now," Sakura announced, quickly hurrying off.

Making her way to Ichiraku's no-longer ramen shop, Sakura spied Naruto and Hinata sitting at a table in the corner. Kiba was right. They did look happy.

"Really?" Naruto was saying, sounding amused. "All these years?"

Hinata blushed a little. "Yes. I hope you don't think that's weird."

"Nah, it's kind of flattering," Naruto assured her. "Why didn't you ever say something?"

"I – " Hinata began when she noticed the other girl's presence. "Oh, hello Sakura."

"Hey Sakura-chan, what's up?" Naruto asked, turning to look at her.

"What are you guys doing?" Sakura asked faux-cheerfully. "Kiba said that you-"

"For the love of God, I am not in love with Sasuke!" Naruto insisted. "No matter how many times he asks me about it, the answer isn't going to change!"

Well that was one load off her mind. Now, for the other. "He said you and Hinata were, well…" Sakura trailed off awkwardly.

"Trying this whole 'dating' thing?" Naruto supplied. "Yeah, we are."

Sakura looked to Hinata for confirmation, who blushed and nodded happily. "But…but what about me?" she asked.

A puzzled look crossed Naruto's face. "What about you?"

"I told you I loved you, how can you just turn around and date someone else behind my back?" Sakura demanded.

"Hinata said that she loved me, too," Naruto pointed out. "Before you did, even. And you just dropped that bombshell on me after tracking me down near the Summit and left when the conversation wasn't going your way."

"But you love me!" Sakura protested. "Everyone said so. Well…except for Kiba, but he's not exactly the best person to ask."

"You guys sit around and talk about my love life?" Naruto asked incredulously.

Hinata nodded. "It is a rather hot topic since you never really commit to anyone. We also talk about whether Shikamaru likes Temari or Ino, if Ino likes Shikamaru or Sai, and if Neji-niisan is involved with Tenten. Oh, and Kiba thinks Kakashi and Iruka are involved."

"Of course he does," Naruto groaned. "No, Sakura, I don't love you. I do not love Hinata either. I've had a crush on you forever but only recently became aware of Hinata's feelings."

"Why are you choosing her over me?" Sakura demanded. "For years I've had to hear how my feelings for Sasuke were just a crush but you really loved me and now you're telling me that's not true?"

Naruto shook his head helplessly. "You both confessed very close to each other. Hinata told me as she was standing between Nagato and me. You couldn't even look at me, said something about women being fickle, and pretended you don't care about Sasuke."

"I don't care about Sasuke!" Sakura lied.

"I will never believe that," Naruto said firmly.

"That doesn't mean that I don't love you," Sakura said just as firmly.

"That's just it, Sakura: if you confess to loving me while so very clearly lying, how can I trust you really feel that way about me?" Naruto challenged.

"Why would I tell you otherwise?" Sakura inquired.

Naruto sighed heavily. "I don't know, Sakura. Maybe because you think I'm in love with you and you care about me and don't want to leave me with nothing after Sasuke dies." His eyes hardened. "Preferably by my hand, right?"

Sakura blinked. "How did you-"

"He needed to know and you have prove you would rather try and kill Sasuke yourself than tell him," Hinata spoke up.

Naruto's next words were more diplomatic than she expected. "I do not agree with your decision but I will find a way to stop Sasuke one way or another. I…appreciate, I suppose, the concern but I hate people plotting behind my back and I deserve better than to have you 'settle' for me. You do, too. Come on, Hinata. I want to show you my favorite spot in Konoha."

With that they were gone and Sakura was left standing alone in ex-ramen shop wondering what had just happened.

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