DISCLAIMER: All canon characters belong to Kishimoto. The AU and the plot belongs to me.

WARNINGS: Alternate Universe, coarse language, female Naruto, SasuNaru, possible cliches and OOCness.

A/N: Oh gosh, I can't believe it's been more than a year since I last wrote SasuNaru! -dies- Meh, I really need more SasuNaru plot bunnies to hit me since this is my favourite OTP from among all my OTPs. xD

Anyway, this fic is the result of a moment of pure, blinding inspiration. I dunno how good the story is, but I had a blast writing it. Hope you enjoy!


From the tender age of twelve, Uzumaki Naruto had come to realise that there was only one person in the entire world – and, possibly, the Universe too, which was not stretching the truth at all as far as she was concerned – who could get under her skin like no other sentient being ever could.

Ironically, he was also the only one of the opposite sex to have drawn her undivided attention like no other male before him had. He, with his spiked black hair that contrasted strikingly with his pale skin, had looked the epitome of coolness to her then naïve eyes, and he had been the boy she had approached with the greatest enthusiasm during her making-new-friends-spree on her first day in the new neighbourhood.

That time, he was the one – the only goddamn one – who had met her sparkling blue eyes with his arrogant dark ones, eyed her outstretched hand with cold amusement and responded to her excited, 'Yo, I'm Naruto. Wanna go have some ramen together?' with an insulting drawl of,

'Che, what a dobe.'

And just like that, they were enemies. Within the space of fifteen short seconds, which stretched on for the ever clichéd (and technically impossible) eternity while the two preteens stared at each other, one smirking and the other dumbstruck, Uchiha Sasuke had become the only boy Naruto would hate with all her heart for the next few years to come.

Because Sasuke, only Sasuke, had turned down her keen offer of friendship and left her there standing alone, with her hand suspended in mid-air and her earlier grin still frozen on her face while her eyes slowly filled with belated fury and hurt.

Only Sasuke had ever made her feel like a complete and utter moron, as he had done so right then.

Only Sasuke knew exactly what her anger buttons were and how to slam them all down at the same time with just a single look or word.

'The hell you looking at?' snarled Naruto, stopping in her tracks to glare venomously at the boy with challenging eyes.

He had been leaning against one of the oaks in their local park and watching her intensely with lidded eyes as she stalked past. At first, she had tried to ignore his presence (and also the fact that, sadly, he still existed despite her numerous pleas to God to just kill him off ahead of schedule and throw his ass in Hell already, seeing as that was where it obviously belonged). But when the biggest, jerkiest, haughtiest, most egotistical asshole in all of Konoha – no, wait, make that the Universe; she had already established it was the whole damn Universe – stares unblinkingly at a girl from the very moment that girl comes into said asshole's line of vision ... well, it becomes a teensy weensy bit difficult to just ignore the stupid twat, ya know?

When she paused to look fiercely at him, he raised a thin elegant eyebrow at her coolly. Then, with deliberate slowness, he let his onyx eyes rove down her body in a manner than distinctly made her uncomfortable and justifiably angry. His piercing gaze first lingered on her spiky mess of blonde hair – which, admittedly, she had not bothered to comb (time was a valuable thing when you had ultra daring pranks to set in motion, duh) – and then focussed on the baggy, orange shirt that hung loosely on her slim frame. His thin lips curled at the corners as his dark eyes continued down, taking in her loose-fitting khakis that had two orange stripes down the middle of each leg, her well-worn sneakers and, finally, the black-and-orange jacket she was swinging in her hand.

Naruto narrowed her eyes as he concluded his observation. He met her gaze again and she could see his eyes glinting with mocking laughter.

Baring her teeth, she repeated dangerously, 'What the hell are you looking at, bastard?'

She could not help glancing down at herself as she spoke. Frankly, she could not see anything wrong on her. True, her clothes were not what most girls in Konoha would choose, but they were the same type she wore on a daily basis and – unless some twit of a crow had taken a dump on her (and they would do just that; everyone knows that crows are evil reincarnated that enjoy playing Ready-Aim-Fire with their mass-produced poop) – she could see no reason why Uchiha Sasuke would stare at her. Unless, he was...

'Is this about the orange?' she barked suddenly, pointing an accusing finger at her enemy. ''Cause if it is, then you keep your bloody mouth shut, jerkwad! I don't give a damn about what you think about orange. It's way cooler than you could ever hope to –!'

She stopped talking abruptly when he pushed away from the oak tree with a heartfelt scoff. Rolling his eyes, he slipped his hands into his pockets and, letting a slow smirk cross his face, began to advance on her.

'Really,' he drawled, throwing another more contemptuous look at her simple garments as he stepped closer. 'Just when I thought you couldn't get any lamer ...' His eyes focussed once more on her vivid, orange shirt.

Naruto saw bloody red. No one abused the awesomeness that was orange and got away with it in front of her! Eyes blazing, she opened her mouth to let loose the string of profanity that was on the tip of her tongue, but then, with mild shock, she realised that he was suddenly too close. There was barely two feet of free space between them.

When had that happened?

And he was still coming at her.

Automatically, Naruto began to recoil, but before she had taken more than one step back, Sasuke changed direction slightly so that he walked right past her. She tensed as his shoulder bumped against hers rather roughly and as he passed, he breathed quietly, just loud enough for her to hear,


And with that, the inexplicable tension that had been surrounding them immediately dissipated.

'What did you call me?' Naruto exploded as she whipped around, so fast in fact that she nearly lost her balance and fell flat on her face. It was a damn good thing she managed to catch herself in time, else the jerk would have probably rubbed the humiliation in her face for the next hundred years to come. Straightening, she glared at the Uchiha's retreating back. 'OI! Come back here, you prat, I ain't finished with you yet!'

Sasuke did not as much as look back at her as he sauntered away. That, more than anything, sent her blood boiling over. She could have tolerated – you know, just a little – a verbal retort, a glare or even another one of those smug smirks that so made her want to punch his face in. But no, the bastard was now refusing to even acknowledge her.

Her hands balled into fists.


Only Sasuke could stamp down on her happiness and ruthlessly yank her down from her blissful state of being on high.

'Pathetic, dobe.'

Naruto could not believe her ears. She gaped at the boy that had silently joined her behind the low-lying fence of their school, which was where she had been squatting to execute and observe the results of her latest prank.

Everything had gone accordingly to plan. Her brilliant prank had involved several water balloons filled with viscous paint, a good many slingshots that were placed in strategic points in the numerous trees that nearly surrounded the lawn of the school, and a damn good mechanism consisting of a ridiculously long, strong thread that enabled her to get all the slingshots to shoot their paintballs across the lawn with just a single pull. It was a trick that had taken her weeks to master and Naruto had been ecstatic at how well it had worked!

As a result, some fifty percent of the student population were currently looking like a cross between clowns and those weird painting-thingies that (ironically) looked like someone had simply chucked paintballs at them. Even now, after five whole minutes, the outraged yells and occasional bouts of laughter issuing from the students and teachers that had been unfortunate enough to get caught in the paintball crossfire had not stopped.

And Uchiha Sasuke was calling the upshot of her sheer genius pathetic? Who did the bastard think he was? It was the best prank she had pulled in all her thirteen years yet!

Finally locating her vocal cords, Naruto threw out an arm towards the enraged students and snapped, 'Pathetic? How can you call that pathetic? I bet you'd never be able to pull off something as awesome as this!'

She had barely finished ranting when they heard one of the girls in the paint-splattered crowd cry out, 'OK, who's the idiotic jerk responsible for this? I'm gonna kill them; my hair is totally ruined!'

Her yell was momentarily followed by a loud, emotionless drawl of, 'I like it. It makes you look less like a hag.'


Naruto grinned triumphantly at Sasuke, as if the comical exchange between those two students was irrevocable proof that her little practical joke was the greatest event that had taken place in all of time. Well, in her books, it totally was! If her pranks resulted in utter chaos and madly screeching people – mission accomplished. Hah!

But Sasuke only returned her look with dispassion and, eyeing the clamouring students and teachers, said disdainfully, 'Che, a five-year-old could have done that, only a thousand times better.'

The blonde's jaw dropped open in outrage. Before she could start screaming at him, Sasuke had straightened up from his crouched position in one, fluid move.

'Try to grow an imagination next time, dobe,' he intoned dryly as he looked down at her upturned, livid face. With an infuriating air of superiority, he began to step around her, but on his way, he unexpectedly reached out a hand.

Naruto was startled when she felt his fingers weave themselves through her blonde hair with surprising gentleness. His blunt nails scraped lightly against her scalp as his hand curled into a loose fist, bunching the spiky strands in his palm.

Then he tugged.

Not painfully, but with a suddenness and enough force to make her start and yelp. Next moment, his hand was gone and Sasuke walked away indifferently.

Clutching at her hair, Naruto twisted her body around to stare at his back with bulging eyes. 'Bastard! What was that for?'

Unsurprisingly, she received no reply. As was his custom, he did not look back and Naruto scowled, wanting nothing more than to chase after him and give him a well-deserved roundhouse kick to the ass. But her earlier surprise at how he had touched her had yet to fade and she remained crouching behind the fence.

Filled with a confusing mix of irritation, anger and bewilderment, Naruto slowly turned back to the victims of her prank, but the thrilled euphoria she had first experienced had completely vanished. Gone was the glee at seeing her peers drenched in paint and seething with annoyance. Even the sight of Konoha's Green Beasts clutching at each other and sobbing with ecstatic pride about how the paintball prank had been filled with such youthful joy could not return her signature shit-eating grin to her face.

Damn that spoilsport Sasuke!

Only Sasuke could compliment, flatter, offend and send her up the wall, all in the same sentence (because he was a prick like that; there was no other explanation).

Naruto had been lying on the grassy ground of their campus, underneath the shade of a small chestnut when the two teenage girls had turned up. She had been trying out the whole cloud-watching thing that the Shikamaru dude was so bizarrely fond of, because, contrary to popular belief, she did not spend every waking moment on a self-induced ramen high.

The blonde blinked in confusion and surprise when the two feminine figures stepped into her line of vision, blocking out the weird cloud formation she had been trying to figure out. She did not note their narrowed eyes and peculiar expressions as she sat up and greeted them with a cheerful albeit puzzled, 'Yo, wassap?'

The two teens, who were people Naruto could vaguely recognise from school and her neighbourhood but had never spoken to, exchanged a sneering glance.


'What a bitch.'

The smile immediately faded from Naruto's face and was replaced with shock and hurt. 'W – what?' she stammered, staring up at the two people looming over her.

The shorter of the two girls looked down at her scathingly. 'Stay away from Sasuke-kun, you dumb blonde. Got it?'

'If you know what's good for you, you'll leave him the hell alone!' added the other in equally threatening tones.

Naruto's disbelief was quick to diminish as comprehension and anger took its place. In a flash, she was on her feet with her hands planted on her hips. She scowled at her opponents, who were obviously faithful members of Uchiha Sasuke's infamous fanclub.

'I don't give a damn about your precious Sasuke-kun. You can keep the frickin' bastard; I don't want him!'

'How dare you call him that –!' The taller girl squealed indignantly, but the other one cut her off as she repeated her earlier words to Naruto, this time in a shout:

'Then you stay away from him, you hag!' Her eyes flashed with jealous fury at the outraged blonde girl. 'You with your stupid clothes and your loud mouth – running around the school like you own the place and calling Sasuke-kun bad names to his face and making him angry all the time! Learn your place; you're nothing but a piece of dirt next to Sasuke-kun! Who do you think you are?'

'Who do you think you are, calling me a piece of dirt?' Naruto screeched, flapping her arms so wildly she momentarily resembled a demented orange bird that has yet to be created.

Naruto could not believe what she was hearing! She knew Sasuke's fanclub was filled with stupid, air-headed, hormone-driven, drooling, squealing girls who would willingly give their right arms to have the apathetic bastard just smile at them – and probably the rest of their limbs for a chance to see him in the nude, preferably in the shower with his damp hair falling into seductive dark eyes and rivulets of water tracing down his toned, smooth muscles and wait-just-a-freaking-second, WHAT? Uchiha Sasuke in the shower? No, nuh uh, bad images! Bad! That was totally gross, ew, yuck!

Quick, back to the point! The point was that despite knowing all that, she had never ever thought that the fangirls' craziness could lead to something as stupid as this. Seriously, what the hell?

'I don't care what you think. If he pisses me off, I'll sure as hell call him any names as much as I want to,' Naruto declared, folding her arms across her chest. As far as she was concerned, her actions towards Sasuke were completely justified. More often than not, she tried to avoid the black-haired teenager, but more often than not, she somehow always managed to run into him. Then he would make a sarcastic comment and of course she would retaliate. Uzumaki Naruto never backed down from a challenge!

However, the two girls obviously did not share her sentiment, for the shorter one sneered at her words and said, 'Hah, Sasuke-kun is way cooler than that. "Pissing you off" – he wouldn't even give you the time of the day, you lying little monster! But you're desperate for his attention, so you follow him everywhere, calling him names!'

'Say what?' Naruto was honestly beginning to consider heading to the nearest hospital to see if she could get her ears swapped. Because her current pair must be malfunctioning; there was no way that girl had just said what Naruto thought she had heard!

Before she could continue to protest, the taller of the duo said harshly, 'That's right. And you must think that you're succeeding, eh, because Sasuke-kun has been paying more attention to you than to the rest of us? Well, your little plan won't work, witch. You might have caught his attention, but he'll never fall for the likes of you. There are so many prettier and more deserving girls here.'

'Like you, you mean?' Naruto said rudely, but her brain was fixated on something else entirely. These girls were going berserk because they thought Uchiha Sasuke was paying special attention to her?


Naruto knew perfectly well that Sasuke had a notorious reputation for never showing a speck of interest in any of his fangirls. Even at the age of fourteen, he had received more confessions of undying love from hopeful girls than the rest of the teenage male population combined, but he had ruthlessly broken the hearts of each and every one of his obsessed fans by turning them down without a moment's consideration. So, she could understand why his fangirls would be jealous of the girl to whom he did pay any mind at all.

But, damn it, that was not her! The only "attention" Sasuke had ever paid Naruto was to make rude comments about her or just anything in general that he knew would piss her off. How did that count? The jerk did not even like her.

His fangirls were crazy, Naruto decided, and verbally told them so without shame.

They bristled with anger at her words.

Taking a menacing step forward, the taller girl snarled in the blonde's face, 'Shut up! You just stay away from Sasuke-kun, you hear? Stop trying to seduce him by getting his attention, he will never like you –!'

She stopped talking suddenly and jumped back, staring at something over Naruto's shoulder with surprise. In the blink of an eye, the demeanour of the two girls made a complete one-eighty degree turn. Their eyes lit up as sweet smiles crossed their faces, and they squealed in girly, sultry voices,


Taken aback, Naruto glanced around and clenched her teeth. Standing idly beside the small chestnut tree was Uchiha Sasuke, who had appeared from seemingly nowhere. He did not even bother to acknowledge the twin squeals that had greeted him as he stepped forward, with his hands in his pockets and his dark eyes fixed unwaveringly on the frozen form that was Naruto.

As he approached, the blonde teen caught a sudden, unexpected gleam in his eyes. She gritted her teeth harder, now knowing with absolute certainty that he had overheard their threatening session.

It was like he had read her mind. Still advancing on her, he said slowly, loud enough for all three of them to hear him clearly, 'Me ... liking you, dobe?'

Naruto met his gaze obstinately. Inside, she was struggling to think of something to say – or rather shout; shouting worked better with Sasuke (or, at least, it made her feel good about it) – but absolutely nothing came to mind. Che, trust the overrated human brain to abandon their owners when they were needed the most! But her brain took things one step farther by promptly shutting down the few cells that were still active, when the dark-haired teenager came to a stop directly in front of her, less than a foot away.

She stared up at him in genuine shock. In all their interactions, in all their verbal snarking, he had never come this close to her before. Their torsos were almost touching and she could have sworn she could feel his warm breath fanning her cheeks. But she remained rigid and tried to exude an aura of defiance, refusing to back down from her sworn enemy.

His eyes were piercing and inscrutable; she did not have an inkling as to what he was thinking as he stood there, casually invading her personal space while the other two spectators watched on in shocked silence. The dark gaze raked her features slowly, tracing the thin scars on her cheeks, the length of her nose and the curve of her lips with such intensity that the blood rushed to her face. Something like pleasure graced his countenance as he continued to observe her, as if he liked what he was seeing. Naruto swallowed thickly, quite forgetting that she was supposed to hate him. There was something about the subtle expression on his face that was almost flattering, but all the same, she strongly wanted to hit him. Not like how she constantly wanted to punch his arrogant face in, but to get him to stop staring. She did not think she liked how he was looking at her.

Before she could act on that violent impulse, Sasuke's eyes lifted to stare into her blue ones. Their gazes locked and he held it for a long minute before he repeated in an aloof voice, leaning just an inch closer, 'Me – like you? If it weren't for your eyes, you wouldn't even be worth looking at.'

Without another word, he brushed past her, leaving Naruto shell-shocked. After a moment of silence, she vaguely heard his fangirls immediately seize the chance to get his attention and pursue him, leaving her alone under the chestnut. At long last, her brain caught up with what had just happened and she turned to stare after Sasuke with anger and, more pressingly, utter bafflement.

Why had he stood so close to her? Why had he looked at her like that (whatever "that" was)? And what had he just said?

He had insulted her, hadn't he? He had called her ugly, that bastard!

Or ... had he been complimenting her? If it weren't for your eyes ... had he called her eyes beautiful?

Ugh, what had he just done? Talking and acting like that towards her, especially in front of his over-the-top fangirls! Did that count as ... Sasuke paying Naruto ... special "attention"? Had he just proven that the accusations of those two girls were correct?

What just happened?

Confused beyond belief and still seething, Naruto flopped back down on the grass and looked up at the blue sky. A gentle wind was blowing and the fluffy clouds floated along with it, almost dreamlike.

But wait ... that cloud over there ... heck, it looked just like Sasuke! A chibi Sasuke wearing one of his infamous smug smirks!

Ugh, she was going to give Shikamaru a real good telling-off when next she met him. The lazy ass had been totally wrong; there was nothing relaxing and enjoyable about cloud-watching!

Only Sasuke could make her heart feel like it was betraying her.

'Oh ... isn't he just dreamy?'

It was a truly remarkable feat – worth a couple of awards, at least; or maybe just mention it in the Guinness Book of World Records, that'd be fine, too – that Naruto managed to resist the urge to shove her cup of instant ramen down Haruno Sakura's throat. She liked the pink-haired girl, honestly. Within the few years they had known each other, Sakura had become a good friend. She was one of the few females who seemed to like Naruto for her tomboy personality instead of degrading her like plenty of others.

Sadly though, she was also one of her Uchiha Sasuke's fans. A huge one. This, unfortunately, meant that if Naruto wanted the pink-haired teen's friendship, she also had to put up with Sakura's ceaseless mooning over Sasuke. It was a package deal. Darn.

'No,' Naruto answered Sakura's rhetorical question bluntly and determinedly continued to down her ramen. Mm, miso...

Hardly listening at all to her friend, Sakura propped her elbows on the lunch table and leaned her face in her hands. With a wistful look in her jade green eyes, she continued to gaze across the crowded cafeteria of the school at the object of her infatuation.

'I can't believe Sasuke-kun still hasn't got a girlfriend,' she continued longingly. 'Even when I confessed earlier...'

Naruto looked at her irritably. She already knew that story. Sakura had dredged up every last bit of courage she possessed and told the Uchiha heir that she liked him, and he – Surprise! Surprise! – had promptly told her where to stuff it. OK, so Naruto did not know exactly how he had worded his rejection, or even if it had been verbal at all, but in her mind, that was how she always pictured how the jerk must have turned down Sakura.

However, it completely escaped her logic why Sakura had cried for nearly a week afterwards. She did not even know Sasuke well. In fact, Naruto could not remember ever having seen the two of them having a conversation together. So, why the useless misery?

And, more than anything, Naruto could not hope to understand why her hopeless fangirl-of-a-friend was still gushing over Sasuke. What was the point? He had already broken her heart. It made absolutely no sense!

'Mm ... he's become so handsome ...'

'Sakura-chan, you've been saying that since, what, you were twelve?' Naruto said in a strained voice, groaning. She might have been putting up with all the O-M-G-Sasuke talk for a few years now, but it still got on her nerves every single time. It was always Sasukesasukesasuke...

The pink-haired girl looked around her, her eyes wide. 'Well, yeah, he was so good-looking back then, too. But we're fifteen now, Naruto, and can't you see? The older he is, the more gorgeous he gets! Surely you agree with that.'

'No, I don't,' said Naruto stubbornly, but she turned her face away resolutely so that Sakura would not see her eyes. She did not want the other girl to look in them; she did not want to risk her friend getting the "wrong" idea, in case her eyes betrayed something...

But Sakura did not believe her anyway. 'Oh, come on, Naruto! You may not like him – though only God knows why; Sasuke-kun is every girl's dream! – but you gotta admit he's becoming a hotter piece of grope-worthy eye-candy with every passing day.'

For some reason, Sakura's teasingly crude words made Naruto's cheeks fairly burn. Before she could think of a reply – or whether she ought to reply to that at all – Sakura unexpectedly took hold of the blonde's chin with surprising strength and forced her head around.

'Go on, Naruto, take a good look and tell me you don't think he's gorgeous.'

Trapped under Sakura's strong grip, Naruto found herself with no choice but to look in the direction she had so far succeeded in avoiding with her eyes. Inevitably, her gaze was drawn to the figure of Uchiha Sasuke leisurely crossing the noisy room. But really, there was no need at all. She did not need Sakura to make her look at him to know the blatant truth.

Because Uchiha Sasuke was gorgeous.

She had known that the first time she had seen him when they had been preteens. She knew it every time she retorted to his provocative comments. She knew it even now.

And it was all the fault of those damn raging hormones.

... What?

Well, it totally was! What else could it be? Duh.

It was only her annoying teenage hormones that made her look – when no one else was looking, of course – at his strikingly pale skin and wonder if it would feel smooth and warm to her touch. Only her hormones made her admire his unique hairstyle and, sometimes, crave to curl her fingers in his long fringe to see if those strands of hair were as silky as they looked. And only her hormones were responsible for the inexplicable shivers that tended to run down her spine whenever she caught him staring at her with those penetrating eyes of his.

Because, for reasons she could not fathom, Uchiha Sasuke had taken to staring at her more and more over the years. He always seemed to turn up wherever she went and, if he was not making a sardonic remark to elicit an angry snarl from her, then he was simply gawking at her. And she did not like that – at all ... right? Because it was the hormones that made her heart flutter strangely or blush to the roots of her hair or forget the insult in her mind whenever Sasuke looked at her for an extended period of time. It was her hormones that were acting all weird; she did not like it, right?

Speaking of hormones, Naruto had also discovered that those vile chemicals were hell-bent on screwing with her mind with a vengeance. They were the reason why she had come to notice things about Sasuke she had never given a thought to before. Like the fact that:

1 – His clothes fit him well and he "cut a dashing figure" (as Sakura and her friend, Ino, called it),

2 – He smelled almost as nice as he looked (which she embarrassingly knew because, intermittently, Sasuke still casually overstepped her personal boundaries just to rile her up, and during such times she always got a pretty good whiff of his scent),

3 – The shape of his eyes, straight nose and high cheekbones were what most contributed to his good looks (that was a humiliating thing to have realised, considering he was her enemy and all) and,

4 – Most frighteningly, there was something about him that, at times, gave her an overwhelming desire to be close to him (and that just epically sucked; 'cause this was Sasuke she was talking about!).

See what evil, two-horned, forked-tail-sporting and trident-bearing devils that teenage hormones were? They were making it seem like she was bloody attracted to the jerkface when it was obvious that she would never like the asshole!

And yes, she also knew and agreed very well with Sakura's claim that Sasuke had grown only more gorgeous with age. Because her hormones had made a thorough enough job on her brain to ensure that she had noticed his looks and how they had evolved.

But that did not mean that she had to like it ... or admit it.

Naruto scowled as she let her eyes fall on Sasuke once. Then, living up to her fame of pig-headedness, she growled at Sakura between clenched teeth, 'I don't think he's gorgeous.'

Sighing heavily, Sakura let go of her chin. 'Naruto, you're incorrigible, you know that?'

Ignoring that, the blonde tried to return to her ramen, but found it impossible not to look back at Sasuke again. He was only a few feet away now and was about to pass by their table. He turned his head slightly to face her and their eyes locked together; it was almost as if he had felt her watching him. Or maybe he just simply knew ... like how he always somehow seemed to know exactly where she was, like he had some twisted Naruto-dar injected into his head or something ... like some creepy stalker ...

It was just the hormones, Naruto told herself as firmly as she could when her breath caught just a little as Sasuke's eyes bore into hers. She tried to return his gaze with disdain, accompanied by the middle-finger flip, which only made him smirk broadly at her and that in turn made her heart beat just a tad faster and ... dammit, it was only the freaking hormones! Because there was no way she could be attracted to an unfeeling, arrogant bastard like Uchiha Sasuke. He was the snotty git that had slapped away her hand of friendship and made fun of her on a daily basis. She did not like him; there was nothing about him to like...

So, it was just the hormones...

She did not need a genius to know that she had not convinced her heart at all.

Only Sasuke and his utter unpredictability could make her so confused and muddled that her brain faced the danger of posible self-combustion.

With a hiss of pain, Naruto pushed herself up into a sitting position on the pavement and looked around, cursing. Her knees were hurting badly as they had crashed very hard against the asphalt and her palms, she saw, were a little scraped from her attempt to break her unexpected fall. Maybe next time, she thought a little sheepishly, she ought not to run home from school. Her eyes fell on her bag that had flown out of her hand and she groaned. The zipper had not been done up properly; as a result, one of her books lay halfway out of the bag, three inches of it immersed in a puddle of water.

'Oh, damn it,' she swore loudly in irritation and pain. Tipping her head back, she looked exasperatedly up at the overcast, stormy sky overhead that promised the onslaught of impending rain. Great, more joys to come. Gah, she hated rainy season!

Her cursing stopped when a very familiar snort reached her sensitive ears. Without even lowering her eyes to look ahead of her, she knew who was coming. She could practically feel her blood pressure skyrocketing.

'Go the hell away, teme,' she snapped, ignoring his approaching figure as she reached behind her to pick up the orange-and-black jacket she had dropped. She slapped away the bits of wet grit that clung to it.

Sasuke's footsteps halted a few feet away from her, right beside her fallen bag. Clutching at a large, translucent umbrella in his hand, he looked down at her kneeling form on the ground with apparent amusement in his dark eyes. For a minute, there was a pregnant silence as the two teens looked at each other, Naruto contemptuous and Sasuke calculating.

Then the latter drawled, 'It must take a lot of skill to trip over a flat surface, eh, usuratonkachi?'

Naruto bared her teeth, eyes spitting fire. 'At least I can manage it. You could never fall on your face in a million years if you tried, teme!'

Too late she realised that instead of humiliating him, she had only just established his superiority to her. Sasuke obviously had caught onto her mistake as well, since he smirked an infuriatingly smug smirk that practically screamed SUCKER at her and said, 'Exactly, dobe.'

Determined not to lose the battle, the blonde frantically racked the dusty drawers of her brain to come out with something she could shoot him down with, but all such thoughts came to a standstill when she saw Sasuke look away from her to the bag at his feet, bend down and carefully pick it up. With wide eyes, she watched as Sasuke held up the book that had been partially submerged in the puddle and gentle wipe the wet cover and corners with the hem of his dark blue sweater.

With a supreme nonchalance, as if helping Uzumaki Naruto out was something he did on a daily basis, Sasuke placed the book back in her bag and properly zipped it shut. Then, without another word, he walked towards her and silently held out a hand, looking down at her astounded face.

Naruto gaped at his offered appendage, seeing but not quite comprehending what was happening. Looking impatient, Sasuke rolled his eyes and roughly grasped her upper arm. However, he was almost ... gentle as he pulled her up and did not remove his hand until he was certain that she was steady on her feet.

Unceremoniously thrusting her bag into her arms, he said shortly, 'Get a move on, dobe, before the rains come.'

Somehow, the moment he said that, Naruto just knew what would happen next. It was like some bad, predictable, clichéd joke; like it was an inevitable doom that it would begin to rain as soon as those words were out of Sasuke's mouth.

Oh, someone up there was definitely having a laugh at her expense, alright.

'You just had to say that, didn't you, bastard?' Naruto said sourly, glaring at her companion through the heavy raindrops as she got over her previous shock. 'Thanks a lot for jinxing the rain.'

The rain was becoming faster and heavier by the second, but she saw perfectly clearly the incredulous are-you-freaking-kidding-me look that grazed Sasuke's face at her accusation, but she did not care. As far as she was concerned, it was his fault that she had to walk home in the rain. He had an umbrella, at least.

Slinging her bag over one shoulder and cursing the fact that her knees were still stinging like crazy, she turned on her heel and began to stomp away. Or rather, limp away. Darn it, her knees were really hurting. Gritting her teeth, she determinedly kept up a fast pace. The raindrops were positively pelting her face and her spiky hair grew heavy and hung limp as the water drenched into the blonde strands, but she firmly ignored the elements...

...until the rain suddenly seemed to stop.

Taken aback, Naruto whipped her head around and almost fell onto the rough asphalt for the second time that day. Only Sasuke's firm grip on her elbow kept her standing. Naruto gaped at him in open disbelief as he stood by her side, holding his large umbrella over their heads and waiting impatiently for her to start walking again. He returned her look with exasperation.

'What, did you forget how to use your legs? Move, dobe, I don't have all day.'

Naruto was so flabbergasted that she quite forgot to get angry at him. It did not even occur to her to snap at him to just go on his way since she had not asked for his help in the first place. But even if she had, it became clear that it would not have made a difference since Sasuke chose to say then,

'I'm not having you go home in this rain and catch pneumonia and die and then have your death on my conscience. Now move, already.'

His voice was as sarcastic and aloof as ever, but this time, Naruto plainly heard the underlying tone that seemed almost gentle and ... concerned? She stared at him, bamboozled, but slowly began to walk towards her house again. Sasuke wordlessly fell into step with her, still sharing his transparent umbrella.

They did not exchange a single word as they walked together. Naruto was still trying to work out her new situation. Sasuke, the conceited, heartless, sardonic Sasuke whose mission in life was to piss her off in every way humanly possible, was actually helping her. And not just once, either. She still could not wrap her head around that concept. Why on earth would Uchiha Sasuke care that she, Naruto, had to walk home in the rain? Why would he be concerned that she might get pneumonia and die (how likely was that, anyway?)? Even at sixteen, she was his rival, his enemy, wasn't she? What did he care for her?

For some weird reason, Naruto could not bring herself to ask any of these questions and kept silent the rest of the way home. To her increasing amazement, Sasuke actually walked her all the way to her front porch until she was completely sheltered from the merciless rain. Rubbing the back of her head uncomfortably, she uncertainly turned to face him, her eyes cast to the ground. She should thank him, she supposed, since it had been pretty nice of him to offer to share his umbrella, but she was not quite sure how to –

Something warm and soft was suddenly pressed against her parted lips. She caught a whiff of a familiar scent and, within a fraction of a second, the pressure was removed from her mouth. Her eyes flashed up, widening with realisation, but Sasuke was already turning away from her. He walked back into the rain and she watched as he disappeared the way he had come.

He had just ... hadn't he?

Naruto almost screamed with frustration. Just what was the guy trying to do? What did he mean by all that? What was he trying to tell her?

She automatically raised a hand to finger her tingling lips. Despite the pouring rain, she was suddenly feeling uncomfortably hot around the collar.

Only Sasuke could ever make Uzumaki Naruto brood.

Had it not been for him, Naruto would not have found herself that particular night in their local park, sitting under an oak with her face tilted up towards the moon. There was no other soul in sight and for that, Naruto was glad. She wanted to be alone.

Her thoughts were going in circles. She was well aware that she was asking herself the same questions over and over again, but answers simply refused to come to her. She petulantly wondered if all the Answers out there had decided to bail out on her.

And yes, a part of her brain did know that that made practically no sense.

Sasuke; he was the base of all this. In the few years she had known him, Naruto had thought that she knew perfectly well where he stood in her life. He was the one that had spurned her, had insulted her and was enemy number one. That was practically the natural way of things! But thinking back on recent events, even she could see that something had changed. Maybe that "something" had changed long before now. Maybe it had been continuously changing throughout the four years they had known each other. But what it was ... she did not know what name to put to it (or maybe she did, but did not want to; it was too weird).

There was also the fact that all the questions about Sasuke that had arisen before were still there in front of her, unanswered. How was she to get them answered?

And what about herself? She had thought she hated him, hadn't she? He was always making some offensive remark about her and she had always shot something equally rude back into his face. Their rivalry was legend! But ... with an uneasy feeling in the pit of stomach, Naruto began to wonder if something had not changed inside her as well. Something she had tried to desperately hide because such possibilities had scared her ... What did she feel for Uchiha Sasuke, the irritating rival that had, without her notice, begun to haunt her every waking thought?

Naruto continued to look up at the gibbous moon, half-hoping that the chunk of silvery rock would take pity on her and provide an answer of some sort. No such luck. And now she was getting a headache. Great.

Suddenly, the blonde froze, having had felt a prickling sensation at the back of her neck. She sensed his presence more than heard his approach. With a weary sigh, she got to her feet and turned to face him tiredly, with her back to the oak tree.

He was only a few feet away from her; his posture was relaxed and he had his hands shoved deep into his pockets as was his customary pose. The angle of the moonlight was such that his eyes were in the shadows. Only the rest of his blank and expressionless face could be seen. But it hardly mattered; the feel of his eyes watching her intensely was like a physical sensation.

Naruto asked bluntly, 'What do you want, Sasuke?'

The sheer weight her question carried was felt by both parties, making it quite clear that it was not a simple inquiry as to why he was there. Naruto was certain that he knew the true meaning behind her words. It had also not escaped her attention that she had – involuntarily – addressed him by his given name for the very first time.

Neither had the teen in question missed that point. Raising his chin higher, Sasuke gazed wordlessly at the blonde before closing the distance between them with a few, long strides. Naruto tensed slightly as he stopped in front of her, realising that she was trapped between the brunet and the oak tree, but she stood her ground and looked back at him steadily.

When he spoke, his voice was deep with a husky tenor she had never heard before. 'What do I want?' he repeated slowly, letting his eyes rake her face in a manner that was all too familiar to her; she could feel her cheeks colouring. Sasuke leaned a little closer and, much to her surprise, she felt his strong hands settle firmly on her waist. Her breath escaped her in a low gasp.

Looking her squarely in the eyes, he said simply, 'You ... Naruto.'

His lips descended on hers before the implication of his words entirely sank into her mind. The hands on her waist pushed lightly until she was firmly pressed back against the oak, and then one of them rose to curl in her hair, holding her face to his gently as he kissed her. His mouth moved tenderly over hers, but there was undeniable passion and want in his every touch as he held her possessively to him. Completely lost in the alien sensations of pleasure that was coursing through her body as his lips and wandering fingers left trails of fire on her skin, it took several moments before Naruto realised that she was responding to his touch with equal fervour. The then unknown and nameless feelings and emotions within her had been awoken and they fuelled her wanton desire as she wrapped her arms around him, her hands exploring his body and hair while she parted her lips, allowing him to deepen the kiss.

A low sound of protest escaped her when Sasuke finally broke the kiss. His eyes were darkened with lust as he looked down at her, and yet, they were softer than she had ever seen them. His face was relaxed and his lips were pulled up not in a smirk, but in a genuine, small smile. She felt her own lips curve up as she eyed the tender expression on his face.

However, Sasuke was still Sasuke and his smile was quick to morph into a teasing smirk as he drawled, 'Dobe, you taste like ramen.'

Naruto shot him an irritated look, her fingers twitching. How dare he diss ramen? Seriously, only Sasuke could make her want to kick him right where it hurts most, and yet still kiss him with all the passion of a thousand burning suns at the same time. Only Sasuke ... che, stupid teme.

However, when she found her lips covered again a second time, Naruto decided to go along with the passion-of-a-thousand-burning-suns-kiss plan. She could always kick the bastard later. But for now, this was enough.

Only Naruto could have been dense enough not to have realised that Sasuke had never hated her in the first place.

Only Naruto could not have noticed that, from the day they had met, Sasuke had been figuratively "pulling at her pigtails" to mask his feelings for her.

Because only Naruto had ever succeeded in making Uchiha Sasuke's heart skip a beat, like no other girl ever had. Only Naruto.

Heh, dobe.


Dobe - dead last; idiot

Teme - very rude and offensive manner of saying "You"; can also mean "bastard"

Usuratonkachi - moron; idiot

A/N: Haha, somehow, I always imagine that if Sasuke wanted to hide his affections for a girl by "pulling at her pigtails", he'd be pretty mean about it. In any case, this fic is also revenge for Sasuke. In my earlier Sasufem!Naru AU, Sasuke had the crap annoyed outta him by Naruto. So, it's only fair to write a fic where the situation is the other way around, ne? xD

Reviews and constructive criticism are welcome and will be much appreciated. :)