Just trying to get back into writing SasuSaku after a really prolonged writing block; this short story is the result of my attempts. Although I only plan for it to be two chapters long (it's actually a really long one-shot that has been broken down into two chapters to make it easier to read) I may build on it, depending on feedback and where my ideas go with this.

The music which inspired this piece was Audiomachine's 'The Last One'. Look it up on Youtube, people! I'll be posting a link on my profile page for convenience. It's an absolutely beautiful cinematic tune, and really captures the mood I was going for, particularly toward the end of the story. This piece is also going to be the theme for the ending of Something Tangible, which may give you a clue of which direction I'm going to take it! ; )

Synopsis: It's been two years since nineteen year old Sasuke finally returned to Konoha. He served the sentences for his war-crimes and, after catching up on his rankings, joined the ANBU squad, of which he soon becomes a captain. This story follows his return from a particularly punishing mission.

The Last One

By AngeLhearteD


*I am the last one. Neither living nor dead, a shell of what I once was.

~But somehow, regardless, you always find my heartbeat.


It was close to midnight when Sasuke set foot in Konoha once again, slipping through the towering gates like a noiseless shadow. The streets were tranquil and quiet, a far cry from the conflict-torn village he had evacuated just seven hours prior. He squinted against the assault of rain that obstructed the usual clarity of his vision. How long had they been away? Somewhere in the fray he had lost count, but was certain it had been, at the very least, three and a half months.

The sound of feet shuffling laboriously behind him promptly reminded Sasuke of his duty of care to the men under his command. He turned to survey the wounded, supported between the more able. His gaze lingered fractionally on the sole female of his unit, an auburn-haired kunoichi by the name of Akemi. Her cracked mask rested upon her head, and her face was contorted in agony.

"Get to the hospital," he instructed the dismissal quietly. They nodded and obeyed without question, the way they always did. Sasuke watched them stagger slowly away in his specified direction. Only when they were completely out of sight did he allow himself to exhale, to marginally relax.

A firm hand on his shoulder caused him to wince slightly. He quickly recovered, and directed a neutral glance at the young masked man who remained.

"Hey, quit giving orders, asshole. You aren't looking so great either." The words were light-hearted, but the voice was burdened with the same crippling exhaustion that plagued Sasuke's body. Ignoring the screaming fire in his muscles, Sasuke shrugged the hand away.

"I'm fine," he replied dismissively, earning a sarcastic snort in response. Naruto pushed back his mask, revealing a grimy, tan face stained with blood that was not his own. He peered at Sasuke with appraising blue eyes.

"Like hell you are," he retorted, and Sasuke tiredly wished that for just once in his life, Naruto would cease to be annoying. But he very well knew that such a wish was hopeless – Naruto was synonymous with irritating. "C'mon," his best friend continued, extending a supporting hand again, "let's get you to the hospi-"

"Worry about yourself, moron," Sasuke interjected, more harshly than he'd intended. His jaw clenched tightly at the flicker of reaction he detected in Naruto's cerulean gaze. He knew the loud-mouthed idiot was only trying to look out for him. But he didn't need to be protected. He was the last of an ancient, albeit cursed line; he didn't need anybody else. His Uchiha pride simply wouldn't allow it.

The years since his return to the Hidden Leaf village had seemingly passed in a blur. Somehow, at an excruciatingly slow pace, his old team had managed to wriggle their way, inch by inch, back into the frozen well of his regard, though he did his best to deny the fact in their company. They trusted him so blindly, so foolishly, and he, equally the fool, had reluctantly grown to trust them again in return. Yet he sometimes caught himself, realised that in some respects he had grown to depend on them a little too much for his liking – and that frightened and angered him. He was frightened by the sense of security he experienced in Naruto, Sakura and Kakashi's familiar presence, frightened that someday, somehow, the glass walls of their fragile sanctuary would shatter around him and he would lose everything all over again. He was angered by the sway those feelings had over him and his inability to discard and downplay the slumbering bonds they had reawakened. He'd once believed his black heart to be devoid of all warmth, but had, slowly yet surely, been shown otherwise.

They needed him. Sasuke knew it. And he hated the fact that deep down, in the deepest chasms of his wretched soul, he needed them too.

"Sasuke, don't be such a jerk," Naruto frowned at his friend's characteristic stubbornness. "You're barely standing. I told you not to overdo it; why'd you always have to act so cool, huh?"

Cool? Sasuke hadn't exactly had cool in mind when he'd fought to save the lives he'd been assigned to protect. The screams of innocent civilians were still echoing in his mind, and he wasn't in the mood for Naruto's banter. He wanted quiet. He wanted peace. He knew, however, from experience, that he could never truly acquire either.

Exhaling softly, he said more quietly, "Go home, dobe."

Naruto's concerned gaze burned into his back as Sasuke left him, heading in the direction of his apartment. The autumn rain poured down, soaking the stoic young Uchiha to the bone, causing his already aching muscles to stiffen even further in response to the cold. He rued not having enough chakra to flash-step home; walking through the hushed streets was an arduous task when it took every ounce of willpower to drive his aching legs forward. His lungs were on fire and when he finally reached his house, he staggered through the front door, relieved to close the world out once more as he slammed it shut behind him. No sooner had he done so, he collapsed back against it, wincing as he turned his attention to the wound he had fought to conceal from his squad.

With trembling hands, Sasuke unstrapped the thick, protective vest of his ANBU uniform and carefully lifted the black fabric beneath, revealing hastily secured, blood-stained bandaging. Biting down into the base of his turtle-neck sweater, he unwound the gauze material and exhaled sharply as he peeled the first layer away from his stinging, damaged skin, exposing a deep, angry gash on his left side. He swallowed, his jaw clamped tight, as he ghosted his fingers over the torn tissue, knowing his priority was to clean and disinfect the area. With great effort he pushed away from the door and moved over to the bathroom, not bothering to switch on any lights in the process. His eyes had long been accustomed to the darkness, in both the literal and figurative sense.

He turned on the faucet and opened the cabinet resting on the wall above the generously sized washing basin. His heavy eyes searched the contents of the shelves, stopping on a bottle of surgical spirit. Grabbing the rubbing alcohol, a clean pile of cloth and a surgical suture needle pack, he exited the bathroom and headed for the kitchen. Taking a clean bowl off the counter, he filled it with water then made his way back to the open lounge area. Lowered himself gingerly onto the couch resulted in an increase in pressure being placed on the wound. Red flashed across his vision as his body screamed in protesting agony.

"Fuck," he hissed, grimacing as pain seemed to shoot through every nerve ending inside him. He hadn't felt so bruised and battered in a long time. He waited with gritted teeth for the stinging to subside. When it finally, blessedly did, Sasuke turned his eyes to the ceiling and rested his fatigued limbs for a moment. He thought it was something of a wake-up call, to be reminded that despite his identity and the cursed gift he possessed, he was still mortal, still capable of being grievously wounded in battle.

His thoughts then scattered to Naruto; the hyperactive blond had been injured too, although the Kyuubi's demonic chakra had ensured that the worst of the damages had been mended. Stupid moron had the nerve to accuse him of showing off. His mind began to drift then, in senseless, erratic directions, and he didn't even distinguish the moment when the blackness of the ceiling faded into the darkness of sleep.

Such was how Sakura came upon him, lying in fitful unrest, the bottle of surgical spirit by one of his hands and the clean, unused cloth clutched in the other. She shook the rain out of her hair and knelt beside him, placing a cool palm against his brow. It was feverishly hot, and she clucked her tongue disapprovingly, sighing in soft, resigned exasperation to herself. As her eyes followed the cherished, chiselled planes of his handsome face, she thought, despite everything, how very much like his twelve-year old self he still was; infuriatingly stubborn, completely unaccommodating and far too proud for his own good. For Sasuke, asking for assistance was akin to the world ending. Yet what had he been hoping to accomplish on his own, with such basic items in his hands? Why did he always insist on healing the long, hard way?

A wave of sadness overcame her; all the years she had spent training to become stronger, to be useful to her team, for him, and still he refused the help he knew was readily available. She would drop everything to go to him. Surely Sasuke knew that? Surely he knew how devoted she was, how devoted she had always been? Why, then, did he never call to her? Why did she always find out from Naruto, or Kakashi-sensei, or one of her other friends, that Sasuke was injured or poisoned, and required urgent medical treatment?

And why did Sasuke always avoid her gaze whenever she set about mending him?

She caught her breath, then, as her eyes located the source of his suffering. An alarmingly deep wound inflicted upon his left side, by a weapon that her medically experienced eyes evaluated had been sharp with jagged ends. Setting down her compact medical pack, she streamed soothing chakra into her fingertips and set to silent, resolute work.

The first thing Sasuke realised when he came around was that he was no longer on the couch in the lounge. Blinking in muddled confusion, he struggled to chase the lingering cobwebs out of his mind. How had he ended up lying in bed? The darkness of the room informed him that it had not yet turned morning, and it was still raining outside. How long had he been asleep? He stirred, raising a hand to his pounding head, only to notice that it was bandaged. He stared blankly at his palm for a moment. Then he slowly sat up, wincing as a quick pulsation of pain assaulted his midriff before swiftly ebbing away. Pushing the bed covers aside, he discovered that his sweater had been removed and his torso was bandaged from his stomach to just above the waist of his baggy black ANBU trousers. Sasuke ran his fingers lightly over the gauze material. The other pains in his muscles were now little more than dull aches. His raven head whipped around at the sudden flicker of warm candle-light beyond the screen door to his room. It slid soundlessly open along its track a moment later, revealing a familiar form clothed in an oversized, white shirt. One of his shirts, Sasuke's suddenly far-too-awake mind registered, his body tensing at the sight.

"Sasuke-kun!" a light, feminine voice exclaimed in surprise.

He had known, of course. He had known without even having to think about it that Sakura was the one who had patched him up. After all, who else would bother? He wondered why she still went through so much trouble for him. Pretending that he didn't know the answer to such an obvious question somehow made it easier for him to deal with her. But he found his gaze fixated, bypassing the wooden tray in her hands altogether, to rest on the hem of his shirt, skirting just above her knees.

Why was she wearing his clothes?

"Sasuke-kun, you shouldn't be up yet," she admonished, padding lightly over to the bedside table. Setting the tray with the candle down upon it, she peered at him, pushing back a wayward lock of shoulder-length, pastel-pink hair behind her ear as she did so. Sasuke only realised that his eyes had locked curiously onto her ear when her voice drew his attention back to her concerned face. "How are you feeling?"

He chose to answer her inconsequential question with a more pressing one. "How did you get in?"

"Oh," she blinked. "That. Well, your front door was obviously shut…"

Sasuke stared at her. She placed a self-conscious palm to the side of her neck, before supplying nervously, "Eheh, I kind of had to... force it open." As if fearing an instant reprimand, she quickly held both her hands up in a defensive, pacifying gesture. "But it's okay Sasuke-kun! I got it fixed earlier this morning."

Sasuke froze. That morning? But he had come home at night. And it was night time now. What was going on? As if reading his thoughts, Sakura added, "You've been asleep for a whole day."

He was careful not to allow the internal astonishment he experienced at this disclosure to register on his face. He couldn't recall the last time he had been out for twenty-four hours after a mission. Under normal circumstances, he would recover within a few hours at most. Just how exhausted had he been?

To disguise his dissatisfaction, he narrowed his eyes intimidatingly at Sakura. That still didn't explain why she was wearing his shirt. She once again seemed to guess his lines of thought, an annoying knack she'd had ever since they'd been twelve years old.

"I've been keeping an eye on you here," she explained, fidgeting nervously with her hands in a manner that was more characteristic of Hyuuga Hinata than the seemingly confident kunoichi Sakura appeared to be in public. "I got drenched with rain on the way here yesterday, and I didn't have a spare change of clothes to sleep in, so…" she looked down, indicating the shirt.

Sasuke thought that surely his team-mate could have asked one of her friends to bring a change of clothes over, but decided to say nothing.

"Um, so, how are you feeling?" she tried again.

"Fine," Sasuke replied dully, his gaze slipping away from her face.

"Those bandages are ready to come off now. I just need to close up the rest of that wound," she gestured pointedly to his midriff. "But if you want to rest some more first…"

Sasuke didn't. He just wanted her to finish her job and leave. "It's fine," he muttered. She nodded, and reached out, plucking a small, steaming cup from the tray. She held it out to him. It smelled like some herbal concoction.

"Here, drink this. It's rehydrating and should help with those stubborn aches."

He accepted wordlessly, raising the cup to his nose. It smelled strange yet pleasant, and he downed the contents in one gulp, only to regret it. Sakura giggled at the sour face he pulled as his mouth was overwhelmed with sweetness and his throat seemed to burn for a moment.

"It's good for you, you'll see," she teased.

"Hn," he grumbled, as she settled beside him on the bed, small, surgical scissors in hand. He watched as she worked on removing the bandaging from his palm first. Her fingers were small and deft in their precision.

"Rough mission, huh?" she spoke conversationally, the way she always did whenever she treated him at the hospital. Sasuke was usually content to just listen. But this time was somewhat different. They were alone in his house in the middle of the night, sitting on his bed, and Sakura was wearing his shirt, which was now riding slightly higher up her thighs, revealing a glimpse of the black shorts she wore underneath. The candle's glow danced upon the creaminess of her skin, tinged her complexion with golden radiance. "Naruto told me all about it," she added, gently unwinding the material to reveal unmarred skin. Sasuke flexed his fingers, remembering the sliced wound that had afflicted the area just a day ago. He knew that no amount of water and medical-jutsu could remove the blood spilt by his hands.

There was a pause, before Sakura said, "I'm going to unwrap the other one now." She met his gaze briefly, as if seeking permission. He gave a curt nod, and turned his face away as she snipped through the bandage, her body moving close and away as she unravelled the gauze from around his torso. When she placed a cool hand over the semi-mended skin, Sasuke felt as though he'd been struck by his own chidori, and could not stop himself from drawing a sharp intake of breath.

Sakura flinched in surprise. "Sorry," she grimaced. "I guess it still hurts."

What silently alarmed Sasuke was that it didn't; the jolt of electricity he'd felt had not been the result of his wound. He turned accusatory eyes to Sakura, but she was already summoning pale green chakra to her fingertips.

"Let's close this up," she said softly.

Warmth flooded through Sasuke as she pumped wave after wave of healing chakra through his system. He could feel the cells in his body responding, could feel her energy pulsing within him. Its signature was gentle and familiar, and he battled to keep the cold storm of his own chakra from rushing up to reject it. She didn't know. She didn't know the reason why he was always so reluctant to accept medical aid from her. He had been healed by others before, but their chakra signatures never felt like Sakura's. Sakura's was like a caress, different somehow. It made him relax, so much so that he was left disturbed by just how soothing an effect it had on his body. He had told himself it was because she was a more proficient healer than the others; of course her chakra would feel more pleasant. But was that really it? Or was the undeniable sunshine and light in her chakra responsible for stirring the darkness of his own, thunderous signature?

He didn't know the answer. He didn't know why his body felt so tense whenever she came close. And that unsettled him greatly.

"There," she finally pulled back, and he almost exhaled deeply in relief as the last remnants of healing essence melted from his cells. Looking up at him, she offered a bright smile. "You're as good as new, Sasuke-kun; well, except for the scar, but that can't be helped."

Sasuke looked down. A jagged line of lighter skin was all that remained of the injury. His body was renewed, even if his mind wasn't. He then noticed that Sakura seemed to be waiting for something. He lifted sooty lashes to find her eyes fixated on his scar. Realising that she'd been caught staring Sakura hastily muttered something before fumbling for her supplies.

"W-well, I'll leave you to rest up, then," she stammered. Sasuke frowned lightly in confusion. She switched from bubbly and conversational one moment, to uncertain and nervous the next. What was going on? He couldn't quite figure her out, not the way he had always thought he could when they'd been children. And that bothered him too.

"I've left some more of that herbal brew in the kitchen," she said, rising. "You can drink it whenever you like. You don't have to; I mean, I know how you dislike sweet things, but it really is good for you, you know, Sasuke-kun. But you can throw it out too, that's okay. It's easy to make, so don't feel bad or anything for wasting it. Not that you would. Feel bad, I mean. In fact I think you won't need it at all, so you can just throw it down the sink right away."

She was blabbering. The way she did when she was really nervous. He knew he was the cause of her discomfort; he always had been. Why, then, couldn't she keep her distance, like he had always wanted her to do? Why did she come running to him all the time? Couldn't she see that it was hopeless and pointless to keep trying? She was wasting her energy, her time, her care on someone who was wretched, who did not desire her attentions and most certainly did not deserve them.

Placing a frustrated hand to his forehead, Sasuke began, "Sakura-"

"You should eat something. Maybe I could fix you a meal before I go? What would you like?"

Sasuke didn't want her to fix anything else, and scowled again, "Sakura-"

"Now Sasuke-kun, you're in no state to make something yourself, so I'll just-"

"I'm fine," Sasuke snapped irritably. "Just leave."

Sakura was trying to do what she did best; healing and generally fussing over others. But he didn't want her mothering him. What did he have to do to make her see, to understand that?

The harshness of his tone caused Sakura's expression to change. She seemed to shrink back beneath the weight of his withering glare, and then her shoulders slumped.

"Okay," she said, so quietly that he wasn't sure for a moment that she had spoken at all. "I'll go. I'll wash this shirt for you, too." Offering what he knew Sai dubbed her 'fake smile', she added, "I'm happy I could help, Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke didn't understand the heavy lump that suddenly formed in the base of his throat at her words. He tried to ignore the voice that internally congratulated him on being such an asshole to the very woman who had replenished his broken body to health. He tried to dismiss the guilt, but it only exacerbated when he took the time to really look at Sakura then. Her small, slight form seemed strained, as if devoid of strength. It suddenly struck him that she might have stayed awake all throughout the previous night watching over him. It was certainly a very Sakura-like thing to do. His suspicions were confirmed when, after turning away from him with the tray in hand, she seemed to stumble over some unseen hindrance on the ground. The tray was falling from her grasp, and Sasuke, disregarding the lingering aches of his own body, was at her side in an instant.

Sakura blinked at the feel of hands closing around her upper arms, steadying her. "S-sorry," she began, heat pooling into her cheeks at the awareness of the warmth of Sasuke's body, so close behind her. "I guess my chakra supply is a little lower than I thought. I'm fine. Thank you, Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke slowly released her arms and bent down to retrieve the contents of the tray. He froze when fingertips brushed softly atop his head, and his eyes moved to fix on bare, slender legs.

"I missed a small cut here," Sakura said apologetically. He felt a flutter of warmth, and something inside him finally snapped. Her chakra was dangerously low, and yet she was still insisting on healing an inconsequential little scratch on his head? Why? He let the tray fall back to the wooden floor with a resounding clatter and was on his feet in an instant, yanking her hand down.

"What are you doing?" he hissed.

She released a shaky breath, startled by the sudden hostility in his demeanour. "Sasuke-kun, I was just-"

"Are you stupid?" he snapped, glaring down at her. "Stop wasting your chakra on me!"

He watched as her eyes glazed over with tears. "I'll leave now," she swallowed. "I'm sorry."

Her words only served to aggravate him further. What in the world was she even apologising about? The candle's glow threw light and shadow upon her features and made her large, long-lashed eyes appear all the bigger. Her pupils were fully dilated, open to him, pools of soft, apple green, that he had witnessed other shinobi and civilian young men stare into, so hopelessly smitten. He scarcely realised that he was still holding tightly onto her wrist, and that their faces were now mere inches apart. He couldn't even recall moving at all.

"You are so annoying," he breathed. Her small, rosy lips parted in a silent 'o' of astonishment and she looked stricken by his words. For a horrible, heart-stopping moment, Sasuke couldn't tear his treacherous gaze away from her mouth. When she ran a nervous tongue rapidly along the bottom lip, leaving a wet sheen upon it, he was unprepared for what he experienced next. His body suddenly felt as though it was charged with strange electrical energy, like he was a metal beneath the shadow of a giant, overpowering magnet. He was far too aware of her presence, her proximity, of the subtle scent of strawberries in her hair. He could hear the air leaving her lips in short, rapid bursts, and it made his drumming heart pound faster still. She was getting closer, and it was like he had been frozen in place. All at once, his panicking mind could not think, and his body was beyond his control. He knew precisely what was about to happen, and yet he could do nothing to stop it.

When Sakura's lips brushed tentatively against his, Sasuke's breathing arrested entirely. She seemed to freeze for a moment too, before slowly drawing back to gauge his reaction. Onyx eyes had widened fragmentally, but she could read nothing more on his face. When he did not say anything, she placed an anxious hand agitatedly over her mouth, as if she could not quite believe what she had done either. What had she been thinking? Sasuke had been looking at her in a very peculiar way when her body had moved in of its own accord. A way he had never looked before. It had made her feel like she was falling from a very great height, had made her gravitate toward him, to close the space between their faces. Before she had realised what she was doing, her lips had lightly touched his.

His silence told her enough; he was furious with her, even more than she was with herself. What had she done? How could she ever look him in the face now?

She needed to get out, before she dug an even greater hole for herself. She needed to leave before his eyes stole away all remnants of sanity from her muddled mind. It had been four months since she had last seen him, and she had missed him so profoundly. It seemed to her that her foolish feelings for the sole heir of the Uchiha clan only intensified in his absence.

Sakura backed away, shaking her head in apology, before darting through the open screen door. She hastily grabbed her dry clothes, threw a spare blanket she had found in one of Sasuke's clean laundry cupboards over her shoulders, and stepped out of his house, into the pouring rain.

Sasuke remained frozen in the place she had left him, a gnawing, bewildering fire coursing through his body, and his soul ignited with sudden, inexplicable need.

From the moment she'd set foot inside her apartment, Sakura had burst into floods of tears. Drenched in rain and miserable, she had ignored the shrill, regular ringing of the telephone. It was her mother, or Ino, no doubt, and talking to either of them now would be her undoing. No-one could find out about what she had done. She would simply avoid Sasuke at all costs, and whenever they were forced together, she would try, impossibly, to act normal, as if nothing had happened.

But nothing had happened, had it? She had only likely ruined all hope of friendship with Sasuke in the future. No big deal. It had just been a touch on the lips, a silly mistake. Sasuke hadn't even responded. Of course he hadn't. He had never liked her in that way. In fact she was now certain that he had never even liked her at all. He had merely tolerated her as a team-mate. She sobbed harder into her hands, rueing that she had rushed unthinkingly over to Sasuke's house the moment Naruto had told her that their team-mate was in bad shape. What a fool she was. When was she going to get over the outrageously gorgeous Uchiha Sasuke, grow up, and move on with her life?

An hour later, she finally picked herself up from weeping at her coffee table and headed into the shower. But the tears fell there too. When she had finished, she wiped the steam that had gathered on the mirror and stared at her reflection. Her cheeks were flushed pink from the water's heat and her eyes were red. She was pathetic, still crying over the same boy, seven years later. She was just as weak as she had always been, just as much a slave to her emotions.

You haven't grown up at all, Sakura thought angrily to the subdued face on the other side. Well, unless we count growing more foolish; you've become brilliant at that.

After drying her hair and applying dollops of lotion in an attempt to soften her dry skin, Sakura wandered over to the kitchen. Sasuke's shirt rested upon the counter. A part of her wanted to shred it to pieces, the other, to hold it close. How was she going to return it when she was planning on avoiding him? She shoved the offending piece of clothing into the washing machine along with her other whites, dunked in laundry detergent and switched the machine on. Then she grabbed a tub of half-eaten ice-cream from the freezer and slumped tiredly onto the worn, yet comfortable couch in the living room, staring aimlessly into the distance and listening to the thrumming of the washing machine at work. She didn't care about putting on weight. Ino wasn't going to stop her from comfort eating this time. It wasn't like Sasuke noticed her anyway, and she certainly wasn't interested in gaining anyone else's approval.

She was snapped rudely from her thoughts by the sound of someone knocking on her front door. Sakura blinked and glanced at the clock on the wall. Her lips parted in astonishment; had she truly been sitting for thirty-five minutes already? She looked down at the ice-cream tub, to find that it had been reduced to creamy liquid. She stirred it in dismay, hoping the person on the other side of the door would just leave, but three knocks in succession informed her that they were still there.

"Go away," she muttered, dunking the tub on the oval shaped table and snuggling more comfortably into her soft pink night-robe. She was sleep-deprived and exhausted, and in no mood for Ino's gossip. Nobody else called on her at this hour, apart from her parents, or Naruto. But it was still raining outside. She frowned when the knocking became more persistent. The more she thought about it, the more she doubted her best friend would brave the storm to see her. Ino hated the rain and what it did to her hair.

What if it was Naruto? She didn't think she could face him, was certain she would start crying the moment his twinkling blue eyes rested upon her face. Then she would confide everything and the Fourth Hokage's son would likely do something melodramatic, like march straight up to Sasuke's apartment, break in and hurl colourful insults before proceeding/attempting to beat the stoic young Uchiha to a pulp, resulting in both of them getting seriously hurt. Their fights never ever ended well.

Another rap. It had to be something urgent. Sighing heavily in defeat, Sakura slunk off the couch, and made her way over to the front door.

"Alright, alright, I'm coming!" she mumbled, as the knocking continued. Releasing the locks, she pulled the door open, muttering something about bad timing. Her heart then promptly leapt to her throat in alarm and she felt heat pool instantly into her cheeks.

Sasuke stood solemnly outside, shielding himself from the rain with an umbrella.

Author's note

Suspense! The rest will be up as soon as I find a decent slot of time to finalise it. Please leave your thoughts on this; I haven't written Naruto for a long time and I feel so out of practice! I really appreciate everyone who does consistently leave feedback, and thank all my readers for waiting so patiently for me to update Something Tangible. I've got a lot going on at the moment, both work and family-wise, so please bear with me.

Oh, a final note, the next chapter may feature a real kiss; I'm practicing getting it right for Something Tangible xD