AN: i know it's late! Sorry. i was trying to post it up all day yesterday but FFnet wouldn't let me. so the first thing i did this morning when i woke up was to open up my laptop and try again! I hope you guys enjoy this chapter. I noticed that my story is taking a bit of a darker turn and i hope you guys don't mind ..

anyway, thank you for reading and enjoy!


Chapter Three

"I can't believe you dragged me into this again!" Ino hissed as Sasuke pulled her into a booth. He practically tossed her into the seat across from him, then proceeded to nonchalantly peruse his menu as though he didn't just throw his best friend face first into cracked vinyl.

"I didn't drag you into anything," His mutter was barely audible over the hums of the Ramen shops rush hour. "You're the one that asked to come."

"No, you freak! Asking you what you've been up to lately doesn't mean 'bring me along for your next stalker joyride'!"

"Then you shouldn't have asked."

Ino fought the urge to toss her chopsticks at her companion's head. "Why are we even here?"

"She's supposed to be here today," Sasuke replied. He put his menu down and glanced at the waitress behind her.

"She as in Hikari?" Ino demanded in disbelief. She couldn't believe her friend, man-whore extraordinaire would stoop so low to get a woman's attention. "You really have been stalking her!"

"Shut up," The flustered man hissed. He put his menu back up to hide his blush. "she's coming over here."

"Welcome to The Ramen Shop, can I start you off with anything to drink?" Hikari asked, her blank, expressionless face doing an excellent job of belying the severe irritation she must be feeling at seeing the man again.

"A water for me and an oolong tea for her please," Sasuke answered nonchalantly. He avoided meeting the waitress' gaze.

Good

At least he had the decency to feel ashamed.

"Actually, we're ready to order." Ino chirped. "But baby, I don't think you should add hot sauce this time. Last time it gave you a bad case of BDS."

The blonde then turned to the waitress and smiled. "BDS- burning dung-hole sensation." She clarified. "My baby can't take spicy food too well."

"Excuse us," Sasuke said to Hikari as he grabbed Ino's arm and dragged her past the flaps of the shop's awning.

"What is wrong with you?" He demanded once they were a good distance away.

"Me?"

"Yes you!" He emphasized with a stab of his index finger in her direction.

"What do you mean what's wrong with me? What's wrong with you! You're the one doing stupid things!"

"What are you talking about?"

"You're stalking her and you need to stop," Ino stated rather calmly. "She obviously knows and does not appreciate it."

"I am not stalking her!"

"How did you know that she works here?" Ino demanded. As amusing as this whole thing was, it wasn't right for her best friend to be following around a girl who explicitly said to leave her alone.

"She doesn't." The brunet growled. His dark eyes looked darker than it usually did in the evening light. "I was here the other day and I overheard the owner of the place ask her to work tonight."

"Oh, in that case it's okay! Because you know, you didn't follow her exactly. You're just going everywhere she's going to be! It's not stalking if you're going to be there first right?"

Sasuke found himself nodding in agreement. That was exactly right. He wasn't stalking her, he was waiting for her.

"What is wrong with you?" Ino demanded smacking his arm. "I don't care if she's the cure to your drab loveless life. This is unacceptable. You have no excuse for being one of those creeps!"

Ino was frustrated. What could she do to make him see that what he was doing was wrong? It was her job as his best friend to let him know he was being a pathetic freak and she had no problem with that. She just wished that he wasn't so pigheaded. He had to see that what he was doing wasn't socially acceptable.

He was a twenty-five year old man

A good-looking twenty-five year old man who had his pick of women, he had no excuse. She didn't care that this woman, Hikari was the first, in the past eight years that Sasuke showed any interest in.

There were better ways to go about this.

A stifling silence ensued as Ino thought about what more she could say, and Sasuke thought back on his actions.

He was

He had to be

There was no other explanation for his behavior. He still frequented the coffee shop where Hikari worked, although he had yet to run into her there again. He still went to that god-damned twenty-one and over club every weekend just to catch a glimpse of her dancing in her modest purple dress. He left work early every day, just so he could stand at a corner a block away from the Ramen shop and watch her walk by on her way home. Not to mention that he had dinner at the ramen shop almost every day for two weeks after their almost run in, and he didn't even like ramen!

"Sasuke, this isn't-"

"Ah shit." Sasuke muttered as he ran frustrated hand through his hair. He turned around and leaned his forehead against the smooth cement of the wall of the restaurant. "I'm fucking smitten, aren't I?"

Ino snapped her jaw closed and nodded. "Yeah, you are."

"When did this happen?" The woman almost smiled at the confused expression on her friend's face, it would have been more endearing if he weren't such an unmitigated ass the majority of the time. "Why did this happen?"

The blonde shrugged. "I don't know, but I'm telling you right now. Following her around like a lost puppy isn't going to get her to like you." "

"Why the hell not?"

"It's creepy."

"Then why did you and Sakura do it when we were younger?"

"Really Sasuke? You're going to copy what two pre-pubescent little girls with crushes did thirteen years ago?"

"When you put it that way, it sounds stupid." He grumbled, he let out a long sigh and leaned back against the side of the restaurant. The

"You've got to figure out another way," Ino sing-songed, enjoying the tumultuous state Sasuke was in.

"No shit Sherlock." He spat, clearly not amused. He rolled his eyes and brushed past her into the restaurant, determined to get through this awkward encounter without hurting his chances with Hikari.

"Uchiha, do you really think it's wise of you to piss me off when we're this close to the love of your life?" Ino called after him.

"She's not the love of my life!" He hissed, ears turning red at the accusation. He suddenly remembered why he kept any interest in women to himself. Ino and Naruto would have been relentless in their teasing.

Ino merely skipped back into the restaurant, her giggles still resounding in his head. He had no doubt the damage she could cause, and he felt an uncharacteristic fear bloom in him.

He let out another sigh and started to follow her in and hopefully do some damage control.

This was not how he imagined his evening to turn out.

.


.

Hikari sighed as she relaxed into the tub of hot water. Kiriko was fast asleep, and it was one of the rarer moments where she had time to herself.

She thought back on the days events. She saw Sasuke again. She first saw him in the morning when he visited the Java Hut. She had begged Uzumaki Karin, a co-worker, to tell him that she wasn't there, but she didn't know how much longer Karin would put up with that. The girl wasn't known for her kindness or patience.

She worried her lip as she pondered whether or not it was time to move again. They had been living where they were for a couple of months, but when on the run it was safest to keep moving. Living in the city wasn't exactly cheap anyway. Hikari drew her knees up to her chest and hugged herself.

Could they afford to move?

The funds that her life on-the-run started with had started to dwindle, and working two jobs and whatever else was offered was hard. Kiriko was a growing child, with wants and needs and Hikari was determined to fulfill every one of them.

She would be starting school soon. She would need new clothes, and school supplies.

If Kiriko were to go to school, they would need to settle down

She rested her head on her knees and struggled to compose herself.

Kiriko had to go to school. She had to meet and play with children her own age.

Her parents would have wanted that.

God! Why was it so hard?

Hikari glanced at her clock and briskly finished washing up. She had work in the morning and she should get some rest.

After getting dressed, Hikari walked into the kitchen. She hated dipping into her emergency stash, but the rent was due and Amae-san had yet to pay her for the last two weeks. She opened her freezer door and reached far into the back and pulled out a ziplock bag that held a beautiful velvet pouch.

Seeing the beautiful pouch brought tears to her eyes. It reminded her of a time when packing an emergency bag was just child's play, the furthest thing from reality. When she was younger, she and her older cousin, Neji often played a game called "stormed castle". It was when they packed a small bag of essentials and they would survive in the "wild" that was the Hyuuga estates arboretum. She would be the princess, and he, the gallant knight. Together they would fight trolls and evil wizards and when the imaginary invasion became too much, they would run.

Neji always the smart one, he stressed the importance of valuables. Even at a young age he understood the importance of money. She never paid much attention to that. Her childish mind couldn't fathom not having a warm plate of food every night.

Oh how quickly things were shot to hell.

The very bag in her hand was what Neji had personally packed for her the last time they played, so many years ago. She had kept it hidden under her mattress, and it slipped from her mind until that fateful night when her cousin had approached her in the dark of night. He pressed the cold metal of a gun into her hand and told her to take that pouch and her sister and leave.

Has it been three years already? She asked herself.

Was Neji-nii-san okay? Did he make it out? She wondered. She gently pulled the strings of the pouch and poured the contents on to the table top. Precious stones glittered in the moonlight, the jewelry sparkled with a knowing taunt.

Their beauty did nothing for Hikari.

These stones were merely a means to an end. She had no need for such frivolous things now.

.


.

"Why don't you just tell her how you feel." Uchiha Yugao, his sister-in-law offered as she changed his nephew, Hayate's diaper. Her brown eyes danced in obvious amusement at his predicament. "You know, I don't think I'd ever tire of seeing you Uchiha boys in a love-rut."

"I'm not in love," Sasuke muttered, holding the small baby as she cleaned up. "Right Hayate?" the child looked up at him with dark eyes, much like his own, and then grabbed a strand of his hair. A happy squeal erupted from his nephew's lips as he yanked hard on his uncle's hair. "I'll take that as a yes." Sasuke winced as Hayate tugged especially hard on his bangs.

Yugao held her arms out for her child, but the baby liked where he was just fine and continued tugging on his Sasuke's hair. "Traitor," she smiled. Hayate looked at her and flashed a big toothy smile.

"I can't just go up to her randomly in the middle of the street and ask her to go out with me." Sasuke said after a moment of watching the baby in his arms. Hayate was buttoning his shirt and unbuttoning it with the clumsiness of a child. He was a smart kid, as expected of an Uchiha.

Sasuke briefly wondered when he would settle down and start a family of his own.

He had to find a woman he could tolerate, that was step one. A woman like Hikari.

His mind brought him back to the first time he had seen her. Naruto had wanted fresher meat, and decided that Venue, the popular twenty-one and over club in the city would be a good idea. Sasuke hadn't cared, he had been having a lousy day and just wanted to get smashed. He had been walking around absentmindedly, when he saw her for the first time. Her hair was down and she was wearing this purple dress that came down to her knees, it showed absolutely nothing except her impressive bust-line but something about her wouldn't let him tear his eyes away. Never before had modesty hooked him like that. For the first time in his life, short skirts and exposed breasts weren't what he wanted. What he wanted was right there, just five feet in front of him, dancing with such fluidity and grace that it was sexy. She didn't need to grind her hips and hump the air in a wanton fashion, what she was doing right there blew his mind away. She moved with confidence and he had this urge to join her.

But he never made the move.

He just assumed that if he let his presence be known, that she would do all the move-making like all the other girls. Needless to say, that didn't happen.

"Sure you can, isn't that what most men do?" Yugao asked, breaking him out of his thoughts.

He swung his nephew up onto his shoulders and made sure to have a good grip on the baby's back so that he wouldn't fall. Then he started skipping around the nursery, eliciting squeals and laughter from his nephew.

"I really wish you wouldn't do that." Yugao said flipping her dark hair over her shoulders, her eyes watching him like a hawk.

"I'm not going to let him fall." Sasuke said blandly, he stopped when he saw the expression on her face. You'd think that he just threw his nephew into a pit filled with venomous snakes with how she was looking at him.

"Damn straight you won't," She confirmed. She picked up Hayate's favorite stuffed weasel and dangled it in front of her son's face.

"The thing is I can't do that, because any casual encounters in the middle of the street could be taken as something else." Sasuke ran a hand over his face and let out a sigh. "She thought I was stalking her and told me to stop."

"Were you stalking her?"

"Stalking is a strong word, don't you think?" The brunet asked sheepishly. "And I didn't think she'd notice."

"Have I mentioned how much I just love watching you Uchiha-men chase after girls? It's such a welcomed change from watching desperate women fling themselves at you."

"Haha, very funny. Now give me advice." He demanded, obviously less than amused. He watched as his sleepy nephew was put into is crib and kissed good night.

"Why don't you make her an offer she can't refuse?" The woman said with a sly grin. She ushered Sasuke out of the room and turned out the lights on her way out. Yugao threw a wave over her shoulder as she walked away.

"You make her sound like a prostitute." Sasuke called after her as she disappeared down the hall. Really the woman was a good three years older than him, with that much more experience (according to her) and that was the best she could do?

He fought the urge to thump his head against the wall and started towards the kitchen.

Paying anybody to date him was below him. Really, if he were to resort to those measures then he might as well find another woman, but he didn't want another woman.

He let out a sigh

Exactly how was he supposed to go about asking her out if she wouldn't give him the time of day?