dedication: surprise! zanibarr, because she is amazing and always flatters me so much in her reviews. i got a feeling she'd like this idea, so i really hope she does!
this turned out way longer than i had intended it to be. D:

"…Sasuke-kun?" She stared at him, stunned. "Are you feeling alright?"

"Why shouldn't I?" She still wasn't used to how blank he always sounded. It was worse than before. (But then again, she supposed, things always went downhill for him.)

"Well," she pointed out patiently, "you just kissed me."

"That was my intention."

"…Oh." And suddenly, her heart was hammering in her chest. Over the years, she'd gotten used to impromptu kisses and drunk confessions—that was what happened when you worked at the hospital with male shinobi and civilian patients—so she didn't think much of Sasuke's action. But suddenly, it seemed to mean so much more.

"I would like you to help me restore my clan," he said, face painfully expressionless.

She'd envisioned this scene many times, to be honest. For several years, she had wished that he would return to Konoha and ask her this very question. Eventually, though, she came to the conclusion that if it were to ever actually happen, she'd decline. She didn't want to be someone's baby-maker, no matter how much she cared about him.

"I'm flattered, really," she said, the faintest hints of a blush on her cheeks. Inner Sakura was throwing a tantrum. "But I don't think I can."

"I'm not asking this under the impression that you'll do it for free. Courtship is what you want, correct?"

"…Courtship?" she echoed.

"You are…tolerable." He struggled with his words now. "And occasionally, I mildly enjoy spending time with you. So if you would like to be traditional and have a time frame for courtship, engagement, and marriage before having children, I don't mind."

For a regular woman being confessed to by a regular man, she would've blown him off already. But Sakura knew Sasuke. For Sasuke, this was his declaration of love, as loud and as desperate as her confession that night when they were twelve. For Sasuke, this must've been terribly difficult. This was his way of opening up to her, more than he ever would to anyone else.

And at these thoughts, all rationale left her mind, and she beamed. "Okay."




locking rhythm with hearts
a cabaret where secondhand hearts can play.




It'd been a day that she was aware was approaching, but nothing she found all too important.

"Happy birthday, Forehead!" Sakura stumbled back a few steps when Ino pounced on her. She laughed, briefly returning the hug before the blonde stepped away, holding out a bouquet of pink carnations and cosmos. A fond smile reached her lips, and she accepted the flowers.

"Thanks, Ino." Even after all of these years, cosmos still meant more to their friendship than anything. And as cliché as flowers may seem, if they were from Ino, it meant a lot.

She shrugged, but Sakura could tell she was pleased. "It's nothing much. You got any plans for today?"

"Not really. I think I'll have lunch with Naruto."

"What about Sasuke?" At the Uchiha's name, she frowned imperceptibly—but it wouldn't be surprising if Ino caught it. Ino caught everything.

"I think he's going on a mission tomorrow," she said, waving a hand. "So whatever."

"He's your boyfriend." Ino frowned. "Does he even know that it's your birthday?"

"I don't know. I didn't really tell him about it."

"Why not?"

"What kind of woman wants to celebrate getting older, really?" A smile played at Sakura's lips. "Every year is a year closer to dying."

The blonde rolled her eyes. "You get closer to dying all of the time. And you're only twenty-two—don't worry about it. The average shinobi dies between thirty and forty anyway."

She wrinkled her nose. "Great."

They continued chatting for a little while longer, until Ino glanced at her watch. "Crap—sorry, I've got to go. My shift at the hospital started ten minutes ago. If you find Sasuke, do something special with him, 'kay?"

"'Kay," she replied easily, waving as Ino sped off.

"Happy birthday again!"


On her way back to her apartment to put her bouquet in a vase, she saw Sasuke and Naruto. They were just walking down the street, but when her gaze caught Sasuke's, his eyes narrowed by a fraction. She blinked, confused—but refused to back down. She didn't cower under his scrutiny anymore. His attention quickly shifted though, and she was almost disappointed by that fact.

His lips moved when he leaned in towards Naruto's ear, and in the next moment, he had spun on his heels and was walking away, pace brisk. He didn't even look back. She tried to hide her disappointment, but it wasn't hard when Naruto approached her, grinning brightly.

"Happy birthday, Sakura-chan!" He took her in his arms and spun her around. Just this once, she let him—it was her birthday, after all.

"Thanks, Naruto." Whenever he was around, she couldn't help but smile. His happiness was contagious. "Where was Sasuke going?"

He shrugged. "Dunno. Said something about target practice." She found this odd, because if Sasuke had to work on anything, it certainly wouldn't be target practice. She brushed this off, though, and held up her flowers.

"Look what Ino got me!"

"What are these?" he asked, poking a cosmos. "Little balls of fluff?"

"Nothing you'd understand," she retorted haughtily, holding the bouquet to her chest as if it was something special. Which, of course, it was. "Do you have any plans for today? How about having lunch with me?" He brightened up immediately. "But only if you pay." His face fell.

"But I'm broke, Sakura-chan!"

"Too bad, then. I suppose I'll ask Kakashi-sensei if he's up for it."

"As if he's going to pay!"

"Hm. You're right. Yamato-taichou, then?"


She laughed. "I'm just joking. I'll pay, I guess. I just want to put these flowers in a vase first. Come with me?" As they continued on their way back to her apartment, she couldn't help but let her eyes linger on the spot where she'd seen Sasuke just minutes ago.

"By the way, I did get you something," Naruto said, as if trying to redeem himself. "Here!"

Just a brief glimpse told her what it was. "I don't like porn, Naruto."

"This is the latest installment! It's not even out in stores yet! And Ero-sennin even signed the inside cover with a personal message! Do you know how crazy Kakashi-sensei would be for this?"

"I'm not Kakashi-sensei, though." But nevertheless, she accepted the book with a smile, flipping through it. Not exactly the most ideal gift, but it was the thought that mattered. (Somehow, she always had to convince herself of that whenever Naruto gave her presents.) Perhaps she'd read it later. Maybe. Or not. She'd think about it.

"Y'know, I told Sasuke about your birthday," Naruto said conversationally as she searched for a place to put her flowers.

"Mm." The cabinet by the entrance? Yes, that'd do. "What'd he say?"

"He said he didn't believe that it was your birthday. Something about me not being trustworthy." Her heart clenched a little, but not as bad as it would've. It wasn't great that Sasuke didn't believe Naruto about her birthday—but it would've been worse if he forgot completely. But she shouldn't be surprised—he'd only returned to Konoha about half a year ago, after killing his brother. She'd never celebrated her birthday with him.

"Well," she chided, "he's right. You're not exactly trustworthy."


And anyway, she didn't tell him about her birthday, either. It wasn't something she'd ever emphasized too much. Birthdays didn't matter.

But for some reason, everything always mattered with Sasuke.

She spent the majority of the afternoon with Hinata and Naruto, before having dinner with Kakashi and Yamato. After dinner, she checked up on the patients and visited Ino before popping into Tsunade's office and asking if there was anything she could help with.

"It's your birthday," the Hokage said irritably, being interrupted from her glaring contest with the stack of papers before her. "Go do whatever it is young people do these days."

"You look like you've got your hands full," Sakura insisted. To be honest, she had no one else to spend time with today. If she were let off now, she'd probably go home and watch TV, or something. Which, of course, wasn't a bad thing—but today had been so unproductive. She hated unproductive days.

"That's what Shizune's for," the older woman said. "Now shoo. You're annoying." Sakura frowned, but did as told.

"I'll be back tomorrow, though."

"Tomorrow won't be your birthday, so that's fine by me."

As she strolled down the street with her hands clasped behind her back, she hummed an aimless tune. It was a rather nice evening—spring in the Fire Country was always just the right temperature for her trademark outfit. Perhaps she could train for a while? Yeah, training would be good.

Just as she passed Ichiraku, she saw Sasuke walk out of the ramen stand. He was alone—which probably meant that Naruto had left him with the bill again.

She smiled. "Hi, Sasuke-kun." She didn't realize how much she missed him until now.

His hands went into the pockets of his shorts. "Hn."

"How are you today?"


She smiled, satisfied with his answer. It was the usual response from him. (She vowed to slowly get him to speak more. It would take a long time, but she'd do it.) "I got the day off today, so I spent some time with everyone. Except for you, though. Would you like to hang out?"

He looked at her. She wondered the many things that could be crossing his mind right now. "What does 'hanging out' entail?" he asked carefully. (And he had every right to do so. The last time she offered to hang out, they ended up helping Ino unload the new flower arrivals for her shop. Naruto saw Sasuke handling flowers, and didn't let it go for weeks. From then on, the Uchiha carefully avoided the Yamanaka shop.)

"I don't know." She shrugged. "Train, maybe? I heard you were doing some target practice earlier today."

Almost immediately, his eyes narrowed, and a faint menacing aura began emanating from him. "I've had enough training today."

"Are you sure?" she asked, heart sinking a little. "You're all ready for your mission tomorrow?"

"It's a C-rank, Sakura. Hardly enough to break a sweat over." Despite his skill, Sasuke was still a genin—a thought that she entertained often. She was a jounin now, with Naruto close behind as a chuunin. It was ironic how Sasuke, the most skilled out of everyone in Team Seven, was the one with the lowest rank.

"Well, we could do something else," she said, now grasping for any excuse to be with him. It was a little stupid, really—but it was her birthday, and she felt it wouldn't be complete without spending time with him. "Is there anything in particular you want to do? Some grocery shopping? Are you out of tomatoes yet?"

"I'm fine," he said shortly. "I think I'll be turning in for tonight. Mission tomorrow."

She frowned, a little offended now. If he didn't want to spend time with her, he could just say so. "It's not even eight yet. And like you said, it's a C-rank."

"I have things to do," he ground out, suddenly very tense. Her hands clenched into fists at her sides. Sasuke was the only person she'd take shit from, but this was kind of pushing it. But more than anything, his words just hurt. His words always hurt.

"Are you feeling alright?" she cautions. "Did something happen?" Because that would be the only thing stopping her from being angry with him, now.

He turned away sharply. "You happened."

There was a moment of silence when she was absolutely speechless. Then there were so many different insults and profanities racing through her mind that she didn't even know which one to use on him, because they were all so equally vulgar and he was so deserving of all of them.

"You know, Sasuke-kun, you're always like this. You're the one who's always going on that reproducing your clan tangent, willing to go through courtship and engagement and marriage and all of that crap—but more than half of the time, you just want to be rid of me! I don't want courtship or a ring, you thick-headed ape—I want you to show you care. I just want to have fun with you, but the idea of having fun is so ridiculous in your mind that you have to make everyone around you miserable, too!" She stopped for a moment to breathe, eyes flashing. What made her even angrier was that he didn't even care enough to defend himself. "Today's my freaking birthday, did you know that? I'm twenty-two! And you can't even bother to spend some time with me!" Yeah. She dropped the birthday bomb. So sue her.

He chose his words carefully—a smart one, he was. "I could spend the day with you if it was your birthday—"

"So you wouldn't spend the day with me if it wasn't a special occasion?" she said shrilly. Ayame was poking her head out of Ichiraku now, and people were giving them odd looks. "We're dating, Sasuke-kun—we've been dating for five months, and the most humane thing you've ever done for me was help me with my battle tactics!"

"Those battle tactics will save your life one day—"

"I don't care about one day, Sasuke-kun, I care about now! Look, I'm about seventy percent sure that you care about me, but you just can't do this. You can't treat me like an object. You can't just expect that I know what you're thinking and how you're feeling at all times of the day! I'm—I'm human too, you know. And I know I'm someone you can be yourself around, and I'm trying, I'm really trying here—but you have to try too!" There were angry tears in her eyes, dammit.

She could see him clenching and unclenching his hands at his sides—a calming exercise that she'd taught him a little while back. "Who got you those flowers?"

She stared at him, flabbergasted. "What?"

"That bouquet you had this morning. Were they a birthday gift?"

This was completely irrelevant to anything! "Yes," she said cautiously. "Why?"

"Who were they from?"

"This is completely beside the point!"

"Who sent them to you?"

"Ino, God! What the hell is your problem?"

They stood there for a long moment, glaring each other down and breathing heavily. Personally, Sakura felt that she had a very valid point. Sasuke was one of the most important people to her, but that didn't mean that he could get away with everything. If anything, she existed to make him better.

"I'm trying really hard," she rasped, feeling the energy drain from her. "But my heart can only take so much, you know? I don't have a spare that I can just pop into my chest whenever I need it."

His voice was curt and tense, but lacked the pervious frustration that it had before. "All you need is a spare heart, then."

She snorted. "Easier said than done. I think you should just grow up. That'd be more efficient."

"Hn." He shoved his hands into his pocket, and walked away from her. "I'm going home. Early night. Mission tomorrow." Her anger would've flared up again, but she was just suddenly so tired. Sasuke made her so tired.

Well, she thought glumly to herself as she headed home, happy birthday.

"And then he just demanded to know who sent me your bouquet." She clamped her lips onto her straw, draining her glass of iced tea. "I really don't get him."

This wasn't the first time Sakura had come to her for boy advice (well, Sasuke advice, more like), so Ino didn't seem fazed. "You just don't get him, do you? He's got a superiority complex, and he has possessive tendencies. Of course he'd want to know who those flowers were from! They're gorgeous! Thanks to me, of course."

"What are you saying?" Sakura asked, confused.

"That he's jealous, obviously. For that huge brain behind your huger forehead, you're kind of stupid sometimes."

"But they're from you." She frowned. "Why would he be jealous of a girl?"

"He didn't know they were from a girl until you told him, did he?" Ino pointed out, lazily drinking her piña colada. "I don't think it's just him who doesn't understand you—you don't understand him very much either."

"It's hard to when he has to struggle not to respond to you with monosyllabic words," Sakura muttered.

"Well, I don't know. Honestly, if I were you, I would've just dumped him already—but you've always been obsessed with him, so I guess that's out of the question."

"I'm not obsessed. And you're not much better—you're engaged to the laziest shinobi in the village."

"Hey. At least he talks."

Sakura sighed, burying her face in her hands. "What do I do? I can't handle a relationship like this, no matter how much I care about him. Sometimes, I think I would've been off a lot better if I'd just fallen in love with Naruto, or something."

Ino looked horrified. "Never say that again."

"Whatever. I think I should get going now—Tsunade-shisou's going to yell at me for leaving her alone."

"Isn't that what Shizune's for?"

"Only on my birthday, apparently."

The blonde sucked on her straw thoughtfully. "Well, okay, then. Just know when it's time to step out of an abusive relationship, okay?"

"It's not abusive, Ino."

"Yes it is! He's practically picking away at your heart!"

Sakura hated Ino in a lot of ways. She hated it most when she was right.

She only briefly mentioned Sasuke to Naruto when they trained together that afternoon, but he didn't exactly provide as much input as Ino.

"Eh." He shrugged. "He'll come around. He usually does."

Sakura wasn't sure if coming around meant apologizing, or acting as if nothing happened because he was so obviously in the wrong. "I don't know." She ducked when he aimed a kick for her head, knowing full well it was probably a shadow clone. "Ino's kind of hinting at me to just dump him."

"Why?" When they were twelve, Naruto would've agreed wholeheartedly. Sakura had to admire how he grew up. She punched him in the gut with a touch of chakra, and the clone disappeared in a puff of smoke. Three more came charging around her, and she replaced herself with a log before they all pummeled her. "I mean, you've waited this long for him. Wouldn't it kind of suck if you walked out now?"

"Yeah, but…there are other guys, you know? Like Neji. Neji seems decent."

"I think Neji's got something for Tenten. Although I don't think she'll ever notice." She tossed three shuriken at each of the clones. Two of them went out with a puff, but the third one held his arm up, letting the blade dig into his arm.

"Shit! You were actually one of them?" Her eyes widened at Naruto's blood—although it wasn't something she should be panicking about, considering that it was Naruto.

"Didn't you do something similar before? Back during our first chuunin exam?" He smiled cheekily when she let him pin her wrists down, sitting comfortably on her stomach.

"How do you know? Weren't you kind of unconscious?" His eyes were so blue. Why couldn't she be head over heels for him instead?

"I have my sources." Straightening up and letting her hands free, he pulled the shuriken out of his arm. "Heal me?"

"You'll be fine in half an hour anyway."

"Kyuubi hates it when I depend on him to heal minor wounds."

"He doesn't even have a say in it. It's just part of your body." She rolled her eyes, but nevertheless, took his arm and held her hand above the wound. In mere seconds, he was as good as new.

"See? When you do it, it's way faster!"

Sakura smiled up at him, kind of enjoying the way he was sitting on her. He was like an anchor, keeping her in place when she was about to float away with her irrational thinking. Of course. Things would be okay. Things were always okay when Naruto was around. Naruto was the one who beat the sense into Sasuke's head. Naruto was the one who could make her smile when she felt like the world was collapsing around her.

He peered at her curiously. "Sakura-chan?" She only smiled at him momentarily before reaching out and brushing some stray locks of hair out of his face.

"Thanks, Naruto." She pulled him down so he was laying on her, wrapping her arms around his waist in a hug. (She felt it was too much effort to just sit up and do so.)

The position was a little awkward for him, so he just pat her head. "No problem." She sighed, closing her eyes and lying there in content as she inhaled his scent. It was always so calming. "But, uh…can we move?"

"Mm, why?"

"Your boobs are kind of…distracting…"

"…I love you, Naruto, but sometimes, I want to castrate you. Does that make sense? It doesn't really make sense to me."

"Um…I love you too?"

After a little bit of digging around in Tsunade's office, Sakura found a copy of Sasuke's mission scroll, and made her way to the main gates at his scheduled time of return, chatting up Izumo and Kotetsu while she waited.

Sasuke and his team arrived about half an hour later, all of them looking relatively unharmed. She couldn't help but giggle, though, when she saw him following Kurenai, the team leader, with two other shinobi about ten years younger than him. (He'd better be regretting defecting from Konoha. If he didn't, he'd probably be ANBU by now.)

"Hey, Kurenai-sensei," she said pleasantly when the older woman approached.

"Hi, Sakura. What brings you here?"

"Oh, just picking Sasuke up." She threw a glance at him, having to struggle a little to keep her smile in place. She'd decided, though—she'd stick with it. She'd stick with their rocky relationship. She'd done too much and wasted too much time to back out now. "How was the mission?"

"Relatively simple." The other jounin turned to the rest of her team. "I'll be delivering the mission report. You guys go home and rest. You did well." The two children scrambled away in relief, yelling about dango and baths. Kurenai faced Sakura again, and smiled. "Well, I'll be going now. Have fun with Sasuke. He was exceptionally well-behaved this time." The first couple of times the Uchiha had been paired with other genin for missions, he'd thrown a tantrum. Not a loud one—just a Sasuke one. But it was just as unpleasant as a regular tantrum.

"That's great. I'll see you around." Her attention then focused on Sasuke. "Look at you! You're all covered in blood!"

"It's not mine," he said, brushing her hands away when she held him still so she could inspect him.

She looked at him suspiciously. "Wasn't your mission just to deliver a katana? Why would there be blood?"

He narrowed his eyes just as suspiciously. "How did you know about the mission?"

"Oh, Tsunade-shishou mentioned it in passing." She shrugged noncommittally. "And look at your holster! It's practically soaked through with blood! How many of your kunai did you bloody?"

"There were some chuunin. I disposed of them." She peered at him, searching his face for any trace of deception—although she didn't see the point of that, as Sasuke was the best liar around. Deciding to shrug it off, she held out her hand. He didn't take it. "Once you clean up, would you like to go for dinner?"

"I need to speak to Hokage-sama first." Brushing past her, he made his way swiftly down the street. She frowned, and bid Izumo and Kotetsu goodbye before hurrying after him.

"She'll be talking to Kurenai-sensei. Why not later?"

"I'll have dinner with you in a bit. I'll take you"—he seemed to choke on himself at this point—"somewhere that's not Ichiraku." She blinked in surprise. In Sasuke-language, that meant, I'll take you somewhere special. "Go get ready."

"Okay," she said finally, smiling. "But make sure to shower first! I'm not having sex with you if you reek of sweat and blood!"

"That was once."

"I'll have you know that that was the only time we've had sex."

"You were the one asking for it."

"Because you were depressed after an entire week of D-rank missions! Face it, I made that week worthwhile."

"…Hn." Hah. The jerk didn't have anything to say to that, did he? "Go get ready. I'll pick you up later."

She beamed. "Okay!"

He came by about two hours later (she was almost afraid that he had forgotten about her), hair still slightly damp from his shower. She thought he was very attractive with damp hair.

…Well, he was just attractive with hair in general.

"Are you ready?" he asked, giving her an onceover, but not commenting on her clothes. She pulled a little nervously at her dress—being a kunoichi, she wasn't exactly very womanly, with developed muscles and lean limbs. And she wasn't particularly curvaceous either.

"Mhm. Where are we going?"

"My place." She blinked in surprise. It wasn't what she expected, but it was nice. He'd never invited her over to his place before.

She didn't miss the way her neighbors smiled at her and raised their eyebrows suggestively when they caught her exiting her apartment with Sasuke at her side. The blush to her cheeks was inevitable, and for a moment, she was even tempted to boast about her boyfriend.

"I can't wait for Ino's wedding," she said conversationally as they walked down the streets. "It's going to be so elaborate and beautiful." There was a fair bit of distance between them—completely different from the way significant others should walk beside each other. Sakura had gotten used to it over the months, but there were still moments that she wished he would express some affection towards her. He'd never even held her hand before. (There was sex, but no holding hands. Imagine that.)

"Hn," he replied thoughtfully.

When Sasuke returned to Konoha, he took his first opportunity to live somewhere than wasn't the Uchiha compound. Sakura and Naruto had helped him find a place, in a more secluded part of the village—an older neighborhood, but cheaper land. He didn't have much money, and wanted to spend the Uchiha wealth accordingly. She didn't realize to what extent he was determined to do this until she stepped into his home.

The apartment was sparsely furnished—the couch looked like it was secondhand, and the only thing she saw that made it personal was the picture of Team Seven on the coffee table—but even then, it was facing the window, so one wouldn't be able to see it unless he purposely stood up and stood at the right angle.

"Looks homey," she commented, not sure if she sounded convincing.

"You can watch TV, or something. I'll go make dinner."

"Oh! Would you like me to help?"

"It's fine. Just wait."

But she couldn't find anything that caught her attention on the television. Now that she thought about it, she didn't even watch television that much. She usually read novels or medical scrolls. Or slept. Yeah, sleeping was nice. She never did appreciate it much until she started working full time at the hospital when she wasn't on a mission.

Flipping off the television, she sat back on the couch, fidgeting. She felt nervous—this place almost felt forbidden. But at the same time, she was ridiculously excited.

This was Sasuke's home. Sasuke's. This was where he slept, ate, pondered—the entire place smelled of him. She loved the way he smelled. Something told her she should feel incredibly privileged that he invited her over—her eyes scanned her surroundings numerous times, despite there being almost nothing to speculate.

"Are you sure you're okay?" she asked, poking her head into the kitchen. "I feel a little useless out there."

"No," he corrected, not looking up from his mincing. "You are feeling pampered."

Ooh. Being pampered by Sasuke. She liked that idea.

"What are you making?" She clasped her hands behind her back, peering over his shoulder. "Onigiri?" For some reason, she'd been expecting something…a little fancier. It was no secret within Team Seven that Sasuke was a fantastic cook. He must've picked something up while taking care of himself with Orochimaru.

"Umeboshi," he told her, gesturing towards the other chopped up fillings sitting to the side in little piles. "It's your favorite, isn't it?"

For a moment, she wasn't sure of what to say. That was actually incredibly sweet of him. "Yeah."

"And knowing you, if I made something elaborate, you'd only feel nervous and spill something all over yourself." There was no mistaking the hint of amusement in his voice. "Then you'd have to use my shower, and we all know how long that'd take you."

"Hey!" She hit his arm playfully, and he winced, cutting his finger. "Oh, crap. You got blood all over the food."

"Thank you for your concern."

"C'mon, Sasuke-kun. You've got a higher pain tolerance than most shinobi. A little cut isn't going to do anything to you."

"It's going to get infected."

"Then wash it, silly!"

"What if there was no water?" He put down his knife, looking at her quite seriously. "If we were on a mission and there was no water, what would you do?"

She frowned. "Um, suck out the blood and then heal it?"

He all but shoved his finger into her face. "Do it."

"Why? It's your finger—you do it!"

"You're the medic here."

It took a moment before it clicked. "Oh, I get it! You're flirting with me!" Her smile was undeniable then, and his lips formed into a scowl.

"I'm not flirting."

"Admit it, or I'm not sucking on your finger. And then you'll get gangrene and die, and whose fault will it be? Not mine." She placed her hands on her hips. It was amazing, how easy it was for her to slip into such playful banters with him, even so soon after having a huge argument.

He stared at her, long and hard. "…Hn."

She smiled. "Good." Taking his finger, she clamped her lips over it and sucked. The cut was deep but clean, so it'd be simple to heal. His dark eyes were on her, almost unblinking, burning on her skin. It felt sinfully good. She was holding the rest of his hand, marveling at how large it was compared to hers.

A process that only should've taken seconds ended up being much longer as she met his gaze, heart pounding painfully in her ribcage. The tension between them was so thick now, it was almost palpable. She carefully traced the tip of her tongue over the cut. So this was how Sasuke's blood tasted. Not much different from blood in general, but for some reason, knowing that it was his, it tasted much sweeter. Or maybe it could've just been the traces of umeboshi on his skin. She wasn't sure.

When he pulled his finger away, she swallowed thickly, wondering if she'd gone too far. She could still feel him between her teeth.

He held it out to her. "Heal it."

It took her much longer than it should to register his words. "Right. Yeah." She brought forth a bit of chakra and swiped her hand over the cut. It closed immediately—proof of her skill and experience. Sasuke stared at it for a moment, before placing his finger between his own teeth, sucking on it thoughtfully. She gaped.

And then he went right back to mincing, as if nothing had happened. Sakura was at a loss for words.

The television was on, but neither of them was watching it. She wanted to talk to him. Actually talk, for once—about something that mattered.

"You're aiming for ANBU, right?" she asked, hating how timid her voice sounded.


"It's dangerous, you know. And if you get killed in action, you're not even going to get any credit for it."

He seemed to consider her words for only a moment. "That doesn't matter."

She frowned. "I don't want you to die. And if anything, I don't want you to die with no credit." She could feel his eyes on her, so she stubbornly kept her gaze straight ahead, looking at the television screen, but not seeing. It was only when she sensed him move that she glanced at him.

He was holding his arm out, inviting her to sit closer.

There was a moment of uncertainty, where she wondered if she was just hallucinating this, but she moved closer, feeling his warmth radiate through his clothes. His arm rested on her shoulders.

"When I die, I'll be taking you with me," he murmured—which, now that she thought about it, was probably the most romantic thing he'd ever said to her. Shame. "I would like to"—he paused there, as if suddenly choking on himself—"apologize."

She looked up at him, blinking. "For what?" Well, she knew what, but she wanted to hear him say it.

"When I saw your bouquet, I…made assumptions. I acted irrationally." He sounded strained.

"In simpler terms, you were jealous."

"I don't get jealous."

"Mm." Hesitantly, she shifted and rested her head on his shoulder. He didn't push her away. "It's okay…I suppose." He smelled so good. His touch was distracting. She couldn't think straight.

"You suppose?"

"Well—I don't know. I don't think it's anything new if I said that you were difficult to be around. Everyone tries to adapt to you, Sasuke-kun—but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try either, you know? We're not asking you to change yourself completely, but—show that you care once in a while. Because we know you do. It's just—your actions hurt, even if we know how you feel." She was sure he could detect her underlying tone. You're almost not human.

It was quiet when she stared earnestly at him, searching his face for any indication that he had taken what she said into consideration. "I have a belated birthday gift for you."

She blinked. "A gift?" That was unexpected. Really unexpected.

Sasuke removed his arm and stood up. "Wait here." She was so busy wondering what it could be, that she didn't notice the goosebumps crawling up her arms from the sudden loss of his warmth. This would be the first gift he'd ever given her. Would it be small? It'd probably be small—men in general didn't know what made women happy, and this was Sasuke—the most emotionally constipated of them all. It'd probably be chocolate, or something—yeah, chocolate. That was the safest bet.

When Sasuke emerged from his room, holding something behind his back, she tried to peer around him curiously when she stood from the couch. He angled himself rather intelligently. "What is it?"

"Your spare." Bringing it out from behind his back, she stared, literally lost for words.

"My spare…?" Okay, that was definitely not chocolate.

"Your spare heart."

She reminded herself to breathe. "When I said a spare heart, I didn't literally mean a spare heart…" In Sasuke's hands was a small jar, filled with a clear, yellow liquid that she'd seen numerous times during her career. It was to preserve internal organs. Submerged in it was a heart, completely healthy and undamaged.

She felt abnormally close to tears.

"From one of the chuunin on my mission," Sasuke explained. "Kurenai-sensei took care of most of them, but one got away. I hid it in my weapons holster."

"Was this why you wanted to see Tsunade-shishou after you came back…?"

"My shuriken were not friendly towards it," he said seriously.

"She fixed it so well!" It was nearly impossible to hide her excitement once the initial shock wore off—a heart, really!—and she took the jar from his hands, peering closer at it. "Look, Sasuke-kun—here's the coronary artery—that's where it gets oxygen and other nutrients from—and that's the aorta, and the superior vena cava—" She nearly dropped the entire thing when he grabbed her roughly, crashing their mouths together. It took no effort whatsoever for her eyes to slip shut, bending into his touch.

Sasuke had never kissed her this way before—actually, now that she thought about it, he didn't kiss her much in general. He was nipping at her lips, pressing his tongue against hers, breathing heavy and movements frantic. She could just barely keep up.

"I'll try," he said against her lips, voice husky and breath hot on her skin. "Give me time. I'll be better." She could barely register his words—barely notice him take the heart out of her hand and place it on the coffee table, barely notice being lifted off her feet as he carried her to his room—she could only think of how good he smelled; not like sweat and not like blood—just Sasuke, Sasuke

"I've waited this long," she breathed. "I can wait a bit longer." And those were the last coherent words that left her lips before her head made contact with his pillow.




"Sasuke-kun—the guy who you took this heart from—was he a good guy?"

"Would you feel guilty if he was?"

She shifted uncomfortably, avoiding eye contact. "No…"

He sighed, pulling her closer. She snuggled into him. "He was ugly. Dull, brown hair. Big nose. Probably rogue."

She looked at him incredulously. "Big nose?"

"Anyhow, no one to feel guilty over."

She smiled. "Okay."

"I want to sit down with someone and talk with utter directness, want to talk to all the lost history like that deserving lover."
- Michael Ondaatje, from his book Running in the Family

a/n: it was kind of inspired by grey's, could you tell? when derek gave meredith the kidney. :3 (the recent episodes have been kind of bleh, though. except for the newest one. :3)

btw, new poll on my page! happy valentine's day and chinese new year to all! :)