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"Screw that," Ino hisses, "If Sakura kept to what she felt comfortable with, she'd be an eighty year old virgin with eighty cats and a pig."

"Only to remember you by, Pig-face."


Chapter 1. The Norm



"Naruto, don't."

The warning is answered by an amused snarl, "Make me, bastard!"

"You idiot! You're going to—CRASH!"

There is a moment of intense silence before Neji's menacing voice hisses, "You'd better fucking run, Uzumaki."

There is a raucous laugh from the angel boy before I'm watching two boys I'd known since elementary school tussle on the ground of the soccer field. I can't help but roll my eyes and wonder how in the hell I can have this incomprehensible crush on the biggest clown in the city.

He's the typical blond boy with sky blue eyes and angel features and despite the fact that he's the resident troublemaker; Naruto Uzumaki is the type of boy you'd like to bring home. He's endearing and hard working, despite his horrible school report results. And even though he has a penchant to have verbal diarrhea when he's in front of important adults, Naruto is the Golden Boy.

And he's damn funny too.

Maybe that's why I like him.

"Forehead. Forehead! No! Don't do this to yourself!" Ino snaps her fingers in front of my eyes until I drag them away from him and whispers, "Don't do it! You're just going to feel awful about yourself later. Now stop going off to Naruto-land and go after, oh, I don't know, a guy that doesn't have a girlfriend?"

I smash my head against the picnic table we're sitting at and groan into my hands. "Pig, askdfasjdfka!"

"I know!"


Ino rolls her eyes and clicks her tongue, "Sakura, I know."

Sometimes having a best friend who understands your language really makes things easier.

I lift my head up and lean my chin onto my palm, rolling my eyes as Neji makes a big show of holding Naruto's face in the dirt with one arm pulling his arm back painfully. I don't miss the way he looks carefully to the right where Tenten is watching, amused.

"Forehead," Ino snaps, until I turn back towards her. She leans forward, blue eyes glittering with mischief. "Do you want me to find you a—"

"Pig," I growl at her. She has failed to set me up with decent guys every time she's tried and let me just say now that there have been a lot of times. "Can we not go there please? I hope you remember the last time you tried to set me up with Hinata's friend who was part of the Insect club and how you conveniently forgot to tell me he was a part of the insect club and—"

Ino puts her hands up and wags her finger in my face rather rudely. "Okay, stop right there, Forehead! You know Shino's a totally nice guy. Have you seen his Matrix sunglasses? Morpheus much? I think so. Though it kind of clashes with that grey raincoat thing he always wears…"

"—that hides his bugs! Ew, c'mon Ino! The guy likes it when bugs are all over him! Do I look like the type of girl that digs a guy who lives with bugs?" I look at her pointedly, pointing at the bubblegum pink hair and bright green eyes. She kind of looks at me critically before shrugging and examining her nails.

"Whatever, Forehead," she sniffs dismissively. "Don't whine to me when you're thirty and you're still in love with your best friend's boyfriend. I mean, really? You know Hinata's been into Naruto since what? The fourth grade? Now that she's finally gotten his attention, are you actually going to make yourself competition for her? That's just cruel!"

"It's not like I didn't like him before her!" I argued heatedly. "I mean, yeah. Hinata used to faint all the time when Naruto was around but just because I didn't doesn't mean I'm not as into him as she is. I just didn't tell her I liked him because I knew she liked him and she'd take the whole martyr route and give him up to me and that's so not the way I want this to go down."

Ino raised an eyebrow quizzically before wetting her lips. "You're expecting something to go down? Oh God, Sakura," Ino shook her head, blue eyes shining with sympathy. "When are you going to get it through your thick skull that Naruto is never going to like you that way? He may act like a three year old boy right now but he's not exactly that immature. He likes Hinata, Forehead. Maybe not as intensely as she likes him but he likes her all the same." Ino moves down the bench to peer into my face. I don't know what kind of expression she sees but it must've been bad because she puts an arm around my shoulder and finishes, "Get over him, Sakura. You're never going to have him. I'm not saying this to be mean, I'm saying it because I'm your best friend and as much as I love making fun of you and your love life and no matter how many times I make fun of your make up and your fashion sense, I do actually care for you."

I almost wanted to smile through the feeling of deep, self-loathing.

"Yes, I do care," Ino nudges me in the arm and turns my chin to face her. "Remember, Forehead. I only care a little bit. Just a smidge," she says, making her thumb and forefinger an inch a part. "Now get up, get up. Neji's probably halfway through skinning Naruto so I might as well take you to The Grind for your favorite latte."

I open my mouth to comment but Ino shushes me with a roll of her eyes. "And yes, I suppose it is on me."

Despite the fact that Ino is usually the biggest ass to me, she really is the best friend a girl could ever ask for.


Ino is the type of girl who walks into a room and all eyes are on her. She's the typical Golden Girl. Come to think of it, she and Naruto are very much alike. They have this kind of disgustingly alluring charm you either hate or adore. I'm one of those suckers that totally fall for the blue eyes, angel hair and charismatic confidence. No wonder I'm best friends with one and in love with the other.

Anyway, Ino is usually the one who gets the attention. I mean, it's not that I'm totally jealous or anything. I do get the feeling that I'm being neglected sometimes, but that's the price you pay having a best friend like her. I've gotten so used to it, sometimes I barely even notice.

Hinata is the typical Japanese beauty. She's delicate and pale, with dark midnight blue hair and eyebrows to accentuate the porcelain skin and almost transparent lavender pupils. She's like a doll, fair and breakable looking. Her shy nature emphasizes that even more.

I'm just a mix of them both.

Where Ino and Hinata are the extremes, I'm the cross.

Yeah, that's just another name for undesirable. Whatever.

So when the three of us arrive, with Naruto, to the barbeque being held at Ino's friend Chouji's place (Naruto looks so good in his collared shirt and swimming trunks), I'm not surprised when everyone comes up to talk to Ino and Naruto and Hinata go off to some corner to make out and dry—okay, I'm not going to be bitter. I won't. I promise.

… well, at least I'll try not to visibly look bitter. Yeah.

"And this is my friend, Fore—Sakura. This is my friend Sakura," Ino introduces oh so smoothly. I smile at her as sweet as sugar and none too gently step on her big toe, exposed by her flip flop. She doesn't even cringe, but opts to pinch me at the waist. With her nails.

That little b—

I yelp and she only smiles angelically at the onlookers before I feel them. I don't want to turn around. "Don't look now, Forehead, but there's a boy that's been looking at you the moment you came in," she singsongs lightly, taking her lips away from my ear and continuing a conversation I had no idea was going on.

I'd felt them to my left, but I didn't bother looking. Instead, I step a little bit closer to Ino (because she's my guardian angel who helps me speak when I can't and helps me look cool when I'm not) and smile at the blonde girl with the four ponytails coming out of several corners of her head who looks like she's ready to scratch Ino's eyes out.

Ponytail girl turns to me and smirks, "I'm guessing you're her friend," she nods in Ino's direction. "My name's Temari."

"Haruno Sakura," I say coolly (I think. I think I said it coolly. It could've come out totally stutter-y for all I know.)

"Haruno?" she blinks, looking surprised. "Are you perhaps related to—"

I try to bite back a sigh but it comes out anyway. "Kabuto Yakushi is my second cousin. Other than that, I have no siblings."

She grins, "There it is. Kabuto. He's a creepy little med student if you ask me, but hey, I'm guessing you know him better since he's your cousin and all."

I frown distastefully. "Let's just say, I'm glad he's decided to spend his Christmases at Otogakure's Med School."

She laughs really loudly and then waves over some kid with a pineapple shaped ponytail. Are they a couple? They both have strange hairstyles… "Oh God, Lazy Ass, this girl's related to Kabuto Yakushi!"

'Shikamaru' raises an eyebrow at me and I raise one back at him before he shrugs, "Is that all you called me over for, you troublesome woman?" He scowls irritably at Temari. There's a scoff and then, "Waste of time."

He turns to look at Ino for a second longer than necessary and then turns, saying lazily, "That hotdog is mine, Inuzuka. You'd better keep your paws off."

Temari merely shakes her head and turns back to us. "Don't mind him. He's always like that. He's honestly just shy."

Before Ino can make a comment (and I can tell she does because she's got this catty look on her face), a boy with silver hair and really sharp teeth comes up to us. He flings an arm around Temari, who merely rolls her eyes and elbows him in the gut, before he turns to us and smiles charmingly. "Hi, I'm Suigetsu. I haven't seen you two around before."

What surprises the hell out of me is he takes one look at Ino, blinks and then looks at me for the longest time like I'm the most interesting thing on Earth. "What's your name?" he asks. And there's a dimple in his left cheek. If I wasn't already in love with Naruto Uzumaki, I'd be swearing like a sailor.

"Haruno Sakura," I say with an amused smile. Is this what Ino constantly feels like?

The boy is so obvious.

I look towards Ino, who is just as amused as I am and we both smile in unison, "And this is my friend, Ino."

He doesn't look at her. Instead, he makes a point of looking over his shoulder and asks, "Do you wanna go for a swim? I've been told I'm amazing in water." He grins wolfishly and I can't help but laugh. He reminds me of Naruto, except he doesn't seem as dense.

Too bad I'm not that attracted to him.

I look over to Ino again who gives me the thumbs up, so I nod with a smile and take the arm he offers me. Why he needs to escort me to the pool that's just a few meters away, I have no idea. But I think it's charming, so I don't argue or hesitate.

I don't know why but it's not until then that I realize he's been shirtless for our entire exchange. But when I do, I'm blushing so I turn around, feigning modesty about taking my shirt off when in reality, I just can't look him in the face with mine this red. I reach the hem of my shirt with my back to him. Vaguely, I hear him chuckle. "I can help you with that, if you want."

I look over my shoulder and give him a look that clearly says, "Are you kidding? No thanks," before I turn back around and lift my T-shirt over my head. When it's off and in one hand, I lift my eyes just in time to catch the eyes of a boy that looks like the male version of Hinata except he's kind of…

I turn around with heated cheeks, unable to finish the thought. I see Suigetsu grinning appreciatively. "Nice," he appraises, grabbing the shirt in my hand and tossing it by one of the lounge chairs. "Are you going to lose the shorts?"

I don't know why he's speaking so loudly but I roll my eyes and just look at him. "Why are you making it sound like we're going to have sex?" I deadpanned, feeling my cheeks start to turn back to normal.

He raises an eyebrow suggestively and I let out a little laugh. "Forget it, you perv." And then I push him into the pool. He tumbles in with a yelp.

When he surfaces, my shorts are off and have joined my shirt. I look to Ino, who's talking to a boy with messy brown hair who is, conveniently, spreading lotion onto her back. She catches my eye and winks. I can't help but look for Naruto before Suigetsu calls my name and I'm diving into the pool.

I'm not quite used to flirting. I'm a little awkward when guys start paying attention to me. But when Suigetsu knocks my legs out from under me and carries me bridal style in the water before dunking me, I find it so easy. He feels like a brother, or like the cousin Kabuto would never be.

I wipe the chlorine water from my eyes and spit a stream of water onto his chest. He wades over and pins me to the edge of the pool and I start to panic. "What are you—"

He leans down and whispers, "Shhh, it's okay. I'm not going to hurt you." I'm just about to kick him in the family jewels but his lips are at my ear and he's whispering, "You know as well as I do that we're not going to work, right?" I still at his words, but after a second of thought, I nod almost imperceptibly against him. He pulls back a bit and makes a show of wiping his hand against his mouth. The wolfish grin is back before he leans back down and says, "Good, because my friend has been watching you since you came in and he's probably going crazy knowing I've got you."

I pull back, astonished, "What? I don't get it. So you're only doing this to make your friend miserable? That's not very nice," I chastise in a whispered hiss.

Suigetsu merely waves it off. "Sasuke's a dick, anyway. I just want to see what he does." He smiles until my doubts are put at the back of mind and then his eyes twinkle and he asks, "Can I kiss you?"

At that, I put my hands on his chest and push him away about a foot. "Okay, what? I don't think we're on the same page here, Suigetsu." He looks up from the corner of his eyes and I make a move to turn in the same direction before he forcibly moves my chin with his fingers and presses his lips roughly against mine.

And then suddenly Suigetsu's head is under the water and a football makes a splash about two meters away. I blink in surprise at Suigetsu's slumped form. "Hey, are you okay Suigetsu?"

He raises his head and groans before wiping the water from his lips. "Yeah, sorry about that." He wades over enthusiastically before whispering, "Did you see that? Ha!"

Then he turns around and shouts, "OKAY, WHO THE HELL THREW THE FOOTBALL AT ME?"

I hurry out of the pool and accept the towel Hinata hands over to me. "Thanks, Hina."

She smiles and looks over at Suigetsu. "He wasn't doing anything to you… was he, Sakura?" She says in that quiet voice of hers. "He wasn't doing anything you didn't want him to?"

I shake my head and roll my eyes. "He was just playing a trick on a friend. I'm fine." She nods but doesn't look too certain. "I am kinda hungry though."

She grabs my hand then, and smiles. "Me too, let's get something to eat."

While we're waiting for our chicken burgers to grill, Ino saunters over and rests both of her arms over our shoulders. Her sunglasses are pushed roughly from her eyes and her blue eyes are mischievous. "So, Sakura," she starts off nonchalantly. I know her better though, and she wants to know details. "What was that about? I couldn't pay attention to Kiba with Suigetsu pinning you up against the wall and all."

I rolled my eyes, accepting the burger Shikamaru hands to me before muttering, "He just wanted to play a trick on his friend, is all; which I really don't get. I mean, why would one of his friends care if he had me pinned up against the pool? They probably don't even know me. I don't know anyone here except you, Hinata and Naruto. Oh, and Chouji, of course."

Ino rolls her eyes, "Duh, because maybe he wanted dibs on you? Think about it, Sakura. Who else would care about you?"

I look at her, unimpressed. "Well, gee thanks, Pig."

"You know what I mean." Ino sits gracefully onto the lounge chair. Hinata and I settle into the others and dig into our food while Ino talks. "I saw Naruto throw that football at Suigetsu. What do you think that was about?"

I almost choke on my burger. "What? Naruto threw that?" A thousand thoughts were going through my head but Ino shook her head and looked over at a fidgeting Hinata. "Okay, spill it, Hyuuga," I demand, popping the last bit of burger into my mouth. "I want the details," I say with my mouth full.

Ino wrinkles her nose.

Hinata blushes. "Naruto, he... his friend asked him to."

"Friend?" I swallow. "What friend? I didn't think Naruto knew many people here."

"Are you kidding me, Forehead? Naruto knows everybody in this city, or at least, everyone knows him. You know his dad's a legend here." Ino says as if I had no idea. I know. Yoohoo! Girl who's had a crush on him since forever and a day. Duh!

Hinata cuts in before I can start arguing with Ino… and the other entity in my head. "Yes, Sasuke Uchiha. He's the one that's talking to Naruto right now with the boy you were just with, Sakura."

My head whips around to find blonde and like a beacon, I find them. The three boys are standing around in a circle (triangle, whatever) and Naruto looks like he's yelling at Suigetsu. I find myself intensely curious, especially when 'Sasuke' glances over and looks at me. I can't tell his eye color from here, but they look dark. And he looks pretty.

Before I know what I'm saying, the words are coming out of my mouth. "Should I go over there and see what's happening?"

Ino looks just as surprised as I am. "Wow, are you kidding me? Yeah, Forehead! Do it! Oh my God, I'm actually so proud of you right now. You don't know how hot that guy is. I know you can't see him clearly because you're not wearing your dorky glasses but he is pretty high up on the Hot Scale."

I narrowed my eyes suspiciously because hot guys don't go after Haruno Sakura. Oh no. Hot guys go after Ino and Hinata. Like Neji and Naruto. Yeah, I know. Neji and Ino didn't last long, especially when people started saying Neji's hair was prettier than hers and before you know it, Ino had had enough.

"Forehead," Ino snapped her fingers in my face. "You zoned out again. Stop talking to yourself."

I scowled at her but really couldn't be mad when Hinata was giggling like that. "Rating?"

Ino grins with a sly eyebrow rose, "Ino gives him a nine point five." She looks past me to Hinata. "What does Hinata give?"

Hinata chortles lightly before looking over to Sasuke and saying, "Eight."

I have to admit, I'm very impressed. The last time Ino gave a person something over an eight, it was this really hot college guy who had jet black hair tied back into a ponytail and these really creepy-but-amazing red eyes. Usually long-haired guys scare me a bit but this guy was fine.

I start to get anxious because no matter how many times I look in his direction, I can't really make out what he looks like and I refuse to squint. Last thing I need is for some hot guy that is semi-interested in me to be turned off by my squinting face.

"Okay, go or don't go?" I ask them, fiddling with the hem of the towel.

Hinata merely shrugs. "Whatever you feel comfortable with, Sakura."

A very typical Hinata response.

Ino follows up, quite predictably. "Screw that," Ino hisses, leaning over and into my personal space. "If Sakura kept to what she felt comfortable with, she'd be an eighty year old virgin with eighty cats and a pig."

"Only to remember you by, Pig-face," I say sweetly, grabbing at my towel and standing up with a sneer. "Watch me be you for a day."

Ino snorts, "Like you could live through one of my days."

I stick out my tongue at her and walk over—

—right into a sturdy chest.

I can hear Ino chuckle when a pair of warm arms wrap themselves, loose but securely, around my back. I look up in surprise and see black hair, pitch black eyes and one of the prettiest faces I've ever seen in my fuckin' life.

Ino gave him a nine point five? Hinata gave him a flippin' eight? Fuck, this guy was—

"Off the charts," I blurt out when I was trying to say, 'I'm sorry!' I blush and I vaguely register the fact that Ino is cackling in her seat behind me.

That son of a boob.

Sasuke's face is neutral and pale and beautiful when his lips sort of twitch at one side and he says quietly,

"You're wet."

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