Me: Was this a long time coming? You tell me.

…yes, it was.

*(still) Age 15*

Sasuke was a patient sort of person. It was a trait that came with his whole "cool-calm-collected" personality package. He could wait quite a while to get what he wanted, when he wanted to.

He managed to wait about a day before confronting Gaara.

"Hey," he said, approaching the redhead just before Chemistry. He considered adding a 'fuckface' to it, but decided that that was probably overkill.

Gaara turned to him. "Oh. You." His unnaturally deep and gravelly voice dragged on the word "you" as if it was something wholly unpleasant.

"Yeah. Me." Sasuke sat down next to him. Neither of them said anything for a moment. "You didn't give that flower to Hinata," he said.

If Gaara was surprised, he did a damn good job of hiding it.

"Can't imagine she'd be very happy if she knew." He bounced his pencil against the desk absently. "She might not want to hold your hand anymore."

Gaara stared at him for a moment, then turned forward. Sasuke bit back a smirk. Gotcha. "I assume…" Gaara said quietly, "that since you are so sure I didn't give it to her, you are the one who did."

Sasuke's pencil stopped tapping.

"And that means that you like her, in some capacity. But, as she told me, the card attached wasn't signed. Which means that you don't want her to know that you like her." Gaara looked at him out of the corner of his unnerving teal eye.

Sasuke scowled internally. Fuck. Did not think this through.

Gaara gave an almost-smile, and the effect was disturbing. "Don't worry. I won't tell."

Sasuke recovered, and shrugged. "It wouldn't matter if you did, I wasn't the one who left it for her. I just saw the guy who did. And he sure as hell wasn't you."

Gaara was no longer smiling, but didn't look particularly upset. He rested his chin on his palm, eerily calm. "I don't believe you."

"Believe what you want," Sasuke said. "Either way, I know the truth."

"Either way, you were at or near Hinata's house. Which is strange, because you don't live in that neighborhood."

"How do you know where I live?" Sasuke frowned to cover his discomfort.

"I don't. He does." Gaara pointed behind him.

Sasuke turned around, and saw Rock Lee, across the room. When Lee met his eye, he sent him an extra-sparkly smile and two thumbs-up. Sasuke could only stare in dismay because Rock Lee was, in fact, his neighbor. "We're friends now," Gaara deadpanned from behind him. "He instilled me with the Springtime of Youth."

Sasuke schooled his expression, and turned slowly back around, sending Gaara a mildly irritated look. "I bike past her house on the way downtown, that's why I saw. Your paranoia is getting less and less amusing."

"So are your accusations," the tattooed boy replied in his raspy drone. "Why do you care so much?"

Luckily, Hayate-sensei chose this moment to enter, burdened with multiple folders and a clunky-looking laptop, as well as his perpetual and concerning cough. As Rock Lee leapt to his feet to valiantly aid the teacher, Sasuke murmured, "You're lying to her."

"You're lying to me," Gaara murmured back.

Sasuke shot him a glare. Gaara glared back. They spent the entire class period like that, staring intently into each others' eyes.

Shikamaru, sitting in the back of the classroom, wondered if Hinata's new boyfriend was gay. That was sorta surprising.

Sasuke, not so much.

Hinata was a tranquil sort of person. It was a trait that came with her whole "shy-sweet-serene" personality package. It was not often that things greatly excited her, or agitated her, or distracted her.

"Hyuga, Hinata. Hyuga, Hinata…Hinata…Ms. Hyuga!"

Hinata jumped a little. "Here!" she squeaked. Her face grew red as a smattering of giggling ran through the room. Genma-sensei gave her a strange look and continued with roll call, while she slunk low in her seat. Oh boy. Off to a great start.

"What's up, space case?" Kiba leaned over and poked her with his pencil.

"N-nothing, I'm tired," she mumbled, batting it away.

"Inuzuka, Kiba."

"Here," Kiba glanced briefly at the teacher, then turned his attention back to Hinata. "No, seriously. Is it Gaara?"

Hinata suddenly became very interested in lining up her pencils on her desk.

"Oh, it is Gaara!" Kiba grinned, delighted. "Thinking dirty thoughts? Can't wait to get him alone again?" He waggled his eyebrows, and Hinata smacked his arm, bewildered. "What's the matter with you?" she said, but there was more exasperation than reproach behind her words.

Kiba crossed his legs, leaned back in his chair. "The doctors aren't sure. I guess I'm just happy for you. I'm excited that someone finally figured out how hot you are. I mean, besides me and Shino."

Hinata made a face at that, and Kiba laughed. "Yeah, it's gross. You're like a sister to us. A hot sister."

"Should Hana be concerned?" Hinata muttered, attempting to deflect attention, but Kiba was having none of it. "Okay, blech, that's actually really nasty, but we're talking about you. You and Gaaayyyy-raahhh."

Hinata made another face. "Eugh, don't say his name like that." She bit her lip, then decided to share her thoughts. "Okay, I was thinking about him. But – but not in a dirty way!" She fiddled with her hair. "I was just…thinking. About him."

"Yeah? What about him?" Kiba sounded genuinely interested.

"It doesn't seem real," Hinata said carefully. Kiba raised an eyebrow, prompting her, and she continued. "Me, having a boyfriend. I don't even know him that well. It happened kinda fast…I asked him this morning about the flower, and then he asked me if I wanted to be his girlfriend. I said yes, automatically, before I even really knew what he'd asked."

"So, what, you don't want to date him?" Kiba frowned.

"No, not that, I do…I don't know. I guess…it's just kind of…sudden. I didn't know he liked me. He didn't really give off any hints. I never would have known if he hadn't sent me a flower." She frowned, tugged at her hair more agitatedly. "What…what do you think he sees in me?" She asked, much more quietly. "I mean, why does he like me?"

"Uh, cuz you're amazing? I mean, what's not to like about you? You're smart, you're cute, you're funny, you have a killer right hook – no, don't give me that look, I totally deserved it for accidentally copping a feel – and you're probably the nicest person anyone has ever met. There's, like, no downsides to you."

"Y-You think so?" Hinata's voice was wistful.

"I know so. Gaara's one lucky sucker. All the rest of these tools are just too intimidated to talk to you. He's the only one who had the balls to tell you how he felt." Now it was Kiba's turn to sound wistful.

As Genma finished attendance, Hinata's thoughts turned to Gaara, once again. His seemingly sudden interest was confusing, but, she had to admit, flattering. Yes, she decided, he just didn't know how to express himself with words. And he wasn't a bad first boyfriend. He was quiet, like she was, but assertive. He was smart. And he was…nice, was that the right word? Passive was more fitting. No, he couldn't rightly be called nice. But neither could he be called mean. He did look pretty hardcore, what with the kanji tattoo, and the kohl, but…she kinda maybe sorta liked that about him.

Plus, he was clearly a secret romantic…

Hinata was so lost in her thoughts – again – that she didn't get the instruction to take out a notebook until Genma called her name three more times and Kiba pinched her arm.

Ino was a persistent sort of person. It was a trait that came with her whole "loud-proud-shameless overachiever" personality package. Ino always got her man – both literally and figuratively.

Currently, Sasuke was her man. (Figuratively.)

"So how was your break, Sasuke?"

Disinterested glance her way, and then he turned back to his computer.

"Mine was fantastic. I went to, like, six New Years' parties. In one night. It took three showers to get all the body glitter off."

This time he didn't even turn.

"But I guess that doesn't interest you. Not as much as Hinata's break. You know. With her getting together with Gaara and all."

Sasuke was still for a second, and then he sighed. He swiveled around, and leveled her with a look. "What do you want, Yamanaka."

Ino smiled, the picture of innocence. "I just want what's best for Hinata. Don't you?"

"I don't particularly care either way."

"That's not what Deidara reported back to me." She tilted her head to the side. "What, did you think I'd forgotten about that?"

"I wouldn't cite Deidara as your main source on anything." His tone was derisive, but his eyes were wary. Gotcha.

"No, normally I wouldn't. In fact, I just had him confirm my suspicions. He told me how you reacted when he told you I knew. I baited, and you bit." At this point she had Sasuke's full attention. She went on, stifling a smile. "But you're right, Deidara isn't reliable. My real evidence is you, acting like a brat because Hinata has a boyfriend now and it's not you." She tried to sound casual, but it was difficult. After years of pining for Sasuke, and feeling like crap every time he brushed her off, it was immensely gratifying to see him failing in his lackluster pursuance of Hinata.

His eyes narrowed a fraction. "The depth of your delusions continues to amaze me."

Ino wrinkled up her nose. "God, no wonder she doesn't like you. In fact, keep talking like that, and none of the girls will."

"The point, Yamanaka? If you have one." He was full-on glaring now.

She scooted her swivel chair closer, not wanting to be overheard in the quiet computer lab. "My point is that Sakura and I have agreed that you are no good. For Hinata," she said matter-of-factly. "We think you should stay away."

Sasuke closed his eyes, as if exasperated. "I don't care," he said, emphasizing each word. "About Hinata or her relationship. If there's any way I can make that clearer to you, please enlighten me."

Ino ignored him. "We've thought about it, and Sakura and I just think that Hinata is better off with Gaara. He's less…" she searched for a word. "Complicated than you are. Emotionally." She paused, laughed. "Oh my god, did I really just say that?"

Sasuke turned back to his computer.

"Oh, don't pout. There are plenty of other girls who are into you. I mean, not me…" she thought about it for a second, then shook her head. "Nah, not me. But plenty. You could have anyone. Hell, even with all this, Sakura probably still likes you."

Sasuke kept typing. "Really."

"Oh yeah. I mean, if you wanted to, you could probably ask her out today. She'd say yes. But, you don't like her, so…" Ino trailed off.

To her surprise, Sasuke did not affirm her statement. "Hm," was all he said.

Ino stared at the back of his head. "Wait, are you actually considering this? Are you thinking about asking Sakura out? After you've rejected her about a thousand times?"

"Of course not, Yamanaka." His voice, which she had become an expert in discerning, was not of his usual chilly indifference. It was – was he – mocking her?

Ino gaped. Oh my god, no. This was so wrong. "Listen here, Uchiha, you had better not ask Sakura out."

Sasuke swiveled. "Why not? She's free. She's interested."

"You just – because – you just can't!" she hissed. "You don't like her!"

"Maybe I do," said Sasuke, leaning back in his chair. "Maybe I've just realized that Sakura is the one for me. Why are you so against it, Yamanaka? Are you jealous?"

Ino had a hard time keeping herself from slapping him. "You're planning something! Somehow, you think dating Sakura is gonna get you closer to Hinata! Well I'm not gonna let that happen!"

Sasuke tilted his head slightly. "Like I said – your delusions amaze me." He stood, rolled his shoulders, and Ino scowled. Damn it, he was attractive and he wasn't even trying! There was no way Sakura would say no to him! "Do you know where Sakura is this class period?" he asked, not looking at her.

"Fuck you," Ino snarled.

He shrugged carelessly and exited the computer lab, leaving behind a fuming Ino, who crossed her arms and ground her teeth. Damn it. This was not how she wanted this conversation to go.

And for god's sake, would it kill him to call her by her first name?

Hinata was waiting for her ride in the bus circle when she heard Sakura's voice behind her, calling her name. She turned, already smiling, and her eyes went wide as dinner plates.

Sakura was walking towards her. Sasuke Uchiha was with her. They were holding hands.

Her pink-haired friend was beaming like she'd won the lottery. "Hi, Hinata," she said in a tone bursting with barely restrained excitement.

"Hi," Hinata said, trying to pull her eyes away from their clasped hands. She was finding it impossible.

Finally she looked up, and they were both looking at her. She smiled as best she could. "So…u-um…are you two…?"

Clearly Sakura had been waiting for her to ask. "Yes," she burst out. "We're together!" She sent Sasuke a look of pure adoration, and Sasuke gave her a half-smile, a sight so rare that Hinata found herself staring. Sasuke's eyes slid to hers and she quickly looked back at Sakura, mightily confused but supportive all the same. "I'm so happy for you," she told Sakura.

A light touch on her waist alerted her to Gaara's presence, and although she didn't flinch she felt her stomach do a few flips. It was not an unpleasant sensation. He said nothing in the way of greeting, but Sakura smiled at him too, all-encompassing in her joy. "Gaara!" she said, like they were old friends. Gaara nodded at her, and Hinata was suddenly struck with the notion that he might not actually know Sakura's name. "This is great. I'm dating Sasuke, and you're with Gaara. We can trade stories." A sudden inspiration lit Sakura's green eyes. "You know what?" she exclaimed. "We should go on a double date sometime!"

Hinata glanced up at her boyfriend, who was also staring at Sasuke and Sakura's intertwined fingers, having just noticed them. Hinata answered for them both. "That would be g-great," she said, shifting closer to Gaara. Sakura did the same, her smile wide across her face. She began talking excitedly, telling the story of how Sasuke had asked her out, directing most of it at Hinata but seemingly not caring who heard.

Hinata nodded and smiled in the appropriate places, but still had no idea what was going on. Sure, Sakura liked Sasuke, but since when had Sasuke reciprocated? Hadn't he, in no uncertain terms, told her that he would never ever like her? And another thing – several times when she looked, she found Gaara and Sasuke staring at each other, glowering almost, and wondered uneasily how they knew each other and why they were glaring like they were about to start a fist fight and if a double date was really such a good idea in that case. And if a double date was really such a good idea if she had never even been on a solo date before. And Gaara's hand on her waist, which had not moved, was making her cheeks hot and her stomach twirl.

But she just kept on smiling, through the confusion and the doubt and the butterflies in her stomach, because honestly she wasn't sure what else she should be doing. This was all new territory for her.

Not even that awful "You're a Teen Now" book she had gotten for her 13th birthday could help her now.

Naruto sat glumly on the school steps, watching the four figures standing together. He might go over there, and talk to them, on any other day; but now Sakura was dating Sasuke, so neither of them was an option, and any comfort he might have found in talking to Hinata about his single-status woes was clearly not available – not with the way Gaara was holding her.

And frankly, Gaara disturbed him.

It wasn't the end of the world, but it had definitely gotten to him. He really liked Sakura. Sasuke knew that. Why had he asked her out?

Naruto spied Sasuke's brother, walking across the parking lot, and was about to call out to him – he would take what he could get in the way of companionship, even if it was Itachi the Cheapskate Gas Hoarder. But then he noticed the tall blonde girl by Itachi's side. They were engaged in conversation, and were walking quite close together. Naruto's shoulders dropped, and he put his chin in his hands. "Everyone's hooking up but me," he whined out loud.

Sai, sitting a few feet away, smiled at him. "I'm not hooking up with anybody," he said pleasantly.

"Fuck off, Sai," Naruto said sadly.

Me: Sasuke and Ino are more devious that we ever could have imagined. Well, no, not Ino. We all knew she was an evil mastermind. Now Sasuke is together with Sakura, and Hinata is with Gaara…and who's that girl that Itachi's with?

And Naruto is alone. (;_; )

Just how accidental was that feel you copped, Kiba?

Leave your thoughts. : )