I'm sorry guys, life has been a total bitch since the New year and I'll be out of a job soon so I'm busy job hunting which is why I had so little time to write. Anyway, I want to thank you all for being amazing reviewers, your kind words always put me in a good mood and keep me writing.

A WARNING to the younger ones reading this fic... this chapter contains DRUG USE so if you are not okay with that, then stay away!

This chapter is an important one and therefore is dedicated to the following people who regularly review and give me amazing words of encouragement: LadyMartel4000, Iloveallanime16, cutecookiechick, TurtleDovesRule, ILoveSxS, DarknessFlameWolf, Dattebayodobe - thank you so much you guys!

Almost 8,000 words... Enjoy!


Chapter 17

..~**~..


Blue and white lights hung overhead, illuminating the silver bar and leaving plenty of dark corners throughout the rest of the lounge. Sakura took a few steps forward and immediately noticed several pair of eyes gazing her way. Guys watched her like a fresh piece of meat as her silver-haired tormentor behind her led her to a nearby table.

He gestured to the one of the dark velvet benches lining the walls and Sakura felt trapped against the wall as he sat down on a chair opposite her, their knees practically touching.

His hand dug into his back pocket and he carelessly threw a small plastic bag across the table between them.

"Here, have one of those," he told her, lighting up a cigarette with the only candle on the table. "It'll help you relax."

Sakura eyed the tiny white pills inside and scowled.

"Whatsa matter, sweetheart?" he mocked, his purple eyes watching her closely. "You never seen E. before? Don't forget now, I gave you an out and you made your choice -"

"If you think I'm stupid enough to get doped up on shit given to me by a stranger then -"

"The name's Hidan," he cut her off brusquely with a glare. "And that 'shit' is worth more than you could ever afford so shut the fuck up and take the tab, sweetheart."

You're in over your head, her Inner self suddenly warned her. You could deal with this in Suna with Kankuro by your side but now…

Sakura shut her out and picked up the bag, Hidan watching her like a hawk. It was all a mind game to him – see how far the innocent pink-haired girl would go for her friends before she turned tail.

Well Sakura wasn't about to run and she sure as hell wasn't innocent. Not anymore.

Suna High took care of that.

She took out a little white pill and recognised the blue symbol on it as Sasori's. At least she knew what to expect when rolling with his E. Without a second thought, she slipped the tab in her mouth and let it dissolve under her tongue.

"Where is Naruto and what did he take?" she asked without missing a beat.

Opposite her, Hidan's eyes lit up and he gave a dark chuckle as he slipped the plastic bag back inside his pocket. "He took the same as you. He was here for a while after that and then I guess he disappeared in one of the back rooms."

Sakura followed his line of sight towards the back of the lounge where a black curtain was drawn no doubt leading to more private rooms. Sakura fought down her feelings of panic as she wondered if Sasori was with him.

"Who paid for the bag?" Sakura demanded, knowing the Suna red-head didn't sell for less than 15,000 ryo and Naruto didn't carry that kind of money on him.

"No one. My friend gave him a single tab and said it was on him."

Sakura looked back at him, confused. Why? Why would Sasori do that? He wasn't known for being the generous type so why would he start giving freebies to Naruto?

"Now enough with the questions," Hidan stated, crushing his cigarette in the ashtray before turning to the bar. "Time for you to choose, sweetheart. The real game starts now and we're going to need some juice."

Sakura watched as Hidan produced a pack of cards and set them down in the middle of the table and realised he wanted to play a drinking game. She didn't like the way things were going. Mixing ecstasy with alcohol was never a good idea.

"Then I pick apple juice," she retorted annoyed, crossing her arms over her chest.

Hidan merely raised an eyebrow. "Cute. How about you shuffle the cards and I pick the booze instead?"

He got to his feet and Sakura gave a sharp sigh. "Tequila," she relented, knowing otherwise he'd probably pick a strong saké or something nasty like vodka. "I want tequila."

He nodded once, turning towards the bar and Sakura looked around the lounge once more, trying to discern faces in the dim lighting in case Naruto or Shikamaru were around. Not too far from them she saw a group of college guys playing cards as well, probably poker, whilst at another table a couple of girls were preparing white lines of coke.

Hidan returned with a bottle and two shot glasses and she remained silent as he deftly shuffled the cards before putting the pile in the middle of the table, face down.

"We're gonna make this real simple, sweetheart," he explained, lighting up another cigarette. "We take turns turning a card from the pile and guessing whether it'll be higher or lower than the previous one. If you guess right, you keep the card. If you guess wrong, you drink. The player with the most cards, wins."

It seemed simple enough. The trick was to keep count of the cards but she wasn't good at it and once the pill and the shots kicked in, she was bound to lose.

"What if it's the same card?" Sakura asked him, watching as he poured the first round of shots before setting the large bottle on the next table.

"We both drink."

"What happens if I lose?"

He pinned her with a stare, purple eyes flashing in the darkness as his lips slowly curved into a devious smirk. "If you lose, then we get to play another game."

From the sound of his voice and the suggestive look in his eye, Sakura knew exactly what he meant and shuddered slightly.

Don't fucking lose, keep your head together and count the cards like Tsunade taught you!

Hidan turned over the first card, an eight of spades and lifted his glass up above it expecting her to do the same. Sakura took her own glass in her hand, looking down at the golden liquid before lifting it up and meeting his glass.

"Kanpai," she whispered softly before downing her first shot.

She didn't notice the malicious glint in Hidan's eyes before he downed his own glass.

..~**~..


"Lower."

Sakura watched Hidan turn the card over revealing a three of diamonds and internally breathed a sigh of relief. She waited until Hidan called the next card before stacking the three in her pile.

"Higher."

Sakura turned the card, revealing an ace of hearts and laughed.

"Drink up, drink up, Hidan-san!" she exclaimed, smiling coyly as she grabbed the bottle from the neighbouring table and poured him another shot. "I'm totally owning your ass."

"I'm only up three shots," he retorted with a grimace as he downed the drink. "And drop the formalities, would ya? Makes me seem old. Your turn."

"Higher, obviously."

The card turned out to be a queen and Sakura collected it in her pile. They continued playing, Sakura laughing at random and taunting her opponent as she felt the tab and shots take effect.

"Hey Hidan, just how old are you?" she blurted out at some point, leaning over the table to see him up close.

He raised an eyebrow at her. "Why do you ask?"

"Well your hair's all grey already and yet -"

"It's silver," he shot back, irritated. "It's not grey, it's fucking silver, woman."

Sakura snorted, leaning back into the bench. "Yeah well I've never seen anyone with hair like yours unless they're over fifty."

"And your hair's fucking pink," he answered bluntly causing Sakura to giggle.

"Touché."

"Higher," Hidan called out and Sakura turned the card over before handing it to him.

"Lower," she guessed and unfortunately missed.

"Shit." The tequila burned her throat and yet the aftertaste was delicious.

"This tequila is really goood," she exclaimed, looking into her empty shot glass.

"That's the tab talking," Hidan assured her before calling out his next guess.

"Naruto better be fucking grateful that I went looking for him," Sakura muttered, securing another card into her pile.

Hidan chuckled at her words. "Grateful?" he echoed, his purple eyes dancing with amusement. "What the hell do you think Uzumaki's been doing back there? If he was using, he'd be right here with the rest of us."

He leaned forward slightly, his eyes drinking in her reaction as he continued in a low voice. "Your boy's getting laid, sweetheart, and I doubt he wants you to fucking come after him."

Hidan's revelation surprised Sakura and stung a little. So then all that time he wasn't in the backroom with Sasori getting high, he was actually having sex? Her face burned with shame. What an idiot! She had come after Naruto for nothing apparently and instead found herself caught in Hidan's games.

She often blamed Naruto for being rash and not thinking before he acted but apparently she wasn't any better.

Noticing the smirk on Hidan's lips, Sakura realised the bastard knew exactly what Naruto had been upto from the start.

"What? Why didn't you tell me sooner?" she cried out frustrated, although her slurred words made her sound whiny. "That's it, I'm beating your ass at this game and then I'm leaving."

"You think you can win?" Hidan retorted, his behaviour much too confident for someone who was losing. Sakura's eyes flicked down at the small pack of cards left in the middle of the table before looking back into his dark purple eyes.

"Are you counting cards, you cheater?" Sakura blurted out, causing Hidan to laugh at her.

"Are you only realising that now?" he asked incredulously, stubbing out his cigarette in the ashtray.

A bunch of colourful insults flew through Sakura's mind but as she opened her mouth, another voice interrupted her.

"Sakura?"

She looked up and was surprised to find Shikamaru standing nearby and watching her with wide eyes.

She'd completely forgotten about him.

"Shit, what the fuck are you doing here?" he immediately asked, making his way to her and towering over their table. She noticed he was also sporting a similar split lip to Naruto's from the fight.

"You actually know her?" Hidan spoke up, another cigarette already sticking out of his mouth.

"Of course he knows me," Sakura exclaimed with a large grin, patting the seat next to her for Shikamaru to sit down. "I'm his awesome Physics partner, aren't I, Shika?"

"Sakura, what are you doing here?" Shikamaru repeated, unphased by Hidan's question.

"I'm beating this guy's ass at his own game," Sakura said proudly, giving the silver-haired jerk a smug smile.

"Sakura, you can't beat Hidan, he counts the cards," Shikamaru countered, looking distastefully at the half-empty bottle of tequila. "How many shots have you had?"

Sakura laughed at his question, sensing the fake feeling of euphoria take over her mind. "Not enough, but it's okay cause I'm winning!"

"Did you take anything?"

Sakura faltered slightly at Shikamaru's question. "What? No, not really… ok yeah, maybe…"

He frowned at her. "Sakura, your aunt would kill me if she found out about all this. We need to leave."

"Her aunt?" Hidan suddenly questioned, his attention turning to Shikamaru.

"Shika, don't," Sakura stopped him before he revealed anything. "Come on, don't spoil my fun. I want to finish the game. Besides whose fault is it that I'm here in the first place? Who do you think sent me?"

Her words promptly shut him up and he remained silent as Hidan picked up the next card.

"You don't have to do whatever Ino tells you to," Shikamaru stated after a moment.

"Yeah well I wouldn't have to if you'd just stayed by her side," Sakura teased him, before squealing in delight as she correctly guessed again and quickly taunted Hidan with the card.

Shikamaru rolled his eyes at her childish behaviour before swiping the card from her hand and setting it on top of her pile. "Sakura…"

"Okay, okay, that's not the real reason why I came," she confessed, feeling a familiar sensation of contentment slowly consume her. "I heard Naruto was up here too and Sasori as well, that asshole, and -"

"Wait, what? You know Sasori?" Shikamaru asked confused just as Hidan's gaze turned to her surprised.

"Yeah, everyone in Suna knows who he is," Sakura answered with a shrug, drumming her fingers on the table. "Hey, you playing or what?"

Hidan turned a card over guessing correctly.

No matter, Sakura was still winning by three cards. "Higher," she announced before turning over a four of hearts and losing.

"Damn it," she growled, watching Hidan triumphantly fill up her shot glass.

"Fucking troublesome," Shikamaru drawled before sitting himself down next to her on the bench. "Sakura, you're obviously high on something and drinking tequila isn't helping your judgement. You're going to lose."

"Then help me!" she pointed out before downing the glass.

Shikamaru felt down his pockets looking for his smokes. "I can't."

"And why the hell not?" she blurted out, dropping her shotglass which the Nara heir swiftly caught before it fell to the ground. "If I win, Hidan gets to be my bitch!"

Shikamaru almost choked on his unlit cigarette as Hidan merely raised an eyebrow.

"I don't remember agreeing to that."

Sakura smiled sweetly in return. "That's funny, because I clearly remember you stating what would happen if you won, so I thought I would do the same."

Shikamaru tensed at her words. "What happens if he wins?" he asked, his gaze narrowing at Hidan.

"Nothing, because he isn't going to win. My turn!"

Unfortunately as the game continued Sakura's luck seemed to run out. She lost more than she won whereas her opponent guessed correctly everytime.

Opposite her, Hidan watched her closely. "Had enough yet, sweetheart? If you don't win the last card, you'll lose."

"Only if you win yours, otherwise it'll be a draw."

Hidan smirked cockily before exhaling a ring of smoke across the table. "Higher."

Although she should have cursed or ranted at Hidan for guessing correctly again, Sakura ended up snickering as he turned over a nine of clubs. She stared down at the last card, realising after a moment that it was her turn but her mind was too overwhelmed with other thoughts to really care if she won or lost.

"Are you ready?" she asked, looking up at Hidan.

"Are you?" he replied, giving her a searing look.

Sakura leaned over the table slightly, giving him a good view of her cleavage before calling out her guess.

"Lower."

She turned over the card but unfortunately her hand revealed a jack of spades.

Hidan leaned in as well, flicking the ash of his cigarette before pouring Sakura another shot.

"Looks like today's my lucky day," he told her, setting the glass down in front of her. "Here's to my victory."

Sakura felt slightly nauseous at the sight of more tequila but she reached for it nonetheless.

Shikamaru, who had remained quiet throughout the exchange, immediately stopped her. "Sakura, you've had enough. Nevermind your aunt, Sasuke's gonna kill me when he finds out about this."

Sasuke?

"Sakura, what did you promise him?"

"Huh?" She tried to focus on Shikamaru's words but her ears picked up on the soft lounge music playing in the background instead. It was so nice… wasn't anyone else listening to it?

She jumped a little as she felt Hidan's hand land on her knee underneath the table. "Don't bother, she's out of it," he said with a dark chuckle, his hand slowly sliding up her thigh.

"Hidan, you have no idea who she is," Shikamaru growled.

"But a deal's a deal," Hidan continued, his countenance growing somber. "And she promised me another game. Get out of here, Nara."

"Hidan," a deep, authoritative voice suddenly spoke up behind the silver-haired man. "Not her."

Sakura looked up at the newcomer and blinked.

Sasuke?

Except, it wasn't him. The man before them seemed slightly older, with much longer hair tied back in a ponytail and an imposing presence. His good-looks and demeanour were impossible not to notice and Sakura wondered how she hadn't noticed him before. He was just as hot as Sasuke, dressed in a dark fitted dress shirt and slacks that looked expensive.

He was definitely an Uchiha, there was no doubt about it.

Hidan's eyes immediately narrowed. "You're shitting me," he spoke in a low voice.

"Kakuzu's looking for you," the Uchiha continued, ignoring Hidan's blatant anger. "He's starting a poker game with Kisame."

Sakura watched with fascination the staring contest occurring between the two men, until finally Hidan's intense gaze settled on her once more and he reluctantly stood up.

"We'll catch up next time, sweetheart," he relented, slipping another cigarette in his mouth before walking away.

Looking back at the mysterious handsome man standing before them, it took Sakura a moment to realise that he must be Sasuke's hated older brother.

Sasuke's not going to be happy when he finds out his brother's here, Sakura thought to herself until she remembered that Sasuke was having fun downstairs with Chiaki and that she couldn't care less about his family problems.

"Thanks," Shikamaru drawled, looking surprised by the man's presence.

"What is she doing here?" the Uchiha asked nonchalantly, his dark eyes surveying Sakura from head to toe.

Shikamaru stubbed out his cigarette before answering. "She followed Naruto apparently, he's here somewhere. You see him?"

Sakura laughed at his question. "Naruto's busy fucking," she stated, her words slightly slurred. "Hidan said so."

Shikamaru frowned at her before standing up. "Let me get you some water and then we'll head back downstairs."

He left leaving Sakura all alone with the gorgeous man, who sat down in Hidan's seat.

"You'll have to excuse Hidan," he said smoothly, his dark eyes taking in the tequila bottle, the glass shots and the cards on the table. "He's from Yu and doesn't know about Tsunade-sama."

Sakura opened her mouth to respond but someone beat her to it.

"Man, what is it with you and redheads?" a loud voice interrupted them. "I leave you for two minutes and…"

The man paused, staring at Sakura for a moment before speaking again. "Huh… Okay I take that back, a pink-haired chick."

Sakura felt her jaw drop as her eyes took in the sight of yet another hot Uchiha man before her. Whereas the man sitting down seemed to ooze authority and elegance, the second one looked friendlier and more rugged. His hair, the same shade as Sasuke's brother, was a lot shorter and messy, although it looked good on him. His face was a stark contrast from his friend's impassive one as his lips were turned into a large smile.

"Shisui…" the first Uchiha warned.

"What?" he retorted jokingly. "I wanted to know why the hell you were interfering between Hidan and his prey. You know how he loves to torment the groupies. He looked like he wanted to fucking murder you and I guess now I know why."

He winked at Sakura, who blushed in return.

Unfortunately, Shikamaru returned with a glass of water and set it down on the table in front of her. "Drink up and then we're leaving."

He remained standing before her, shielding her view from the hot Uchiha men, who talked behind him in low tones.

"Hey, Shika, who's the hottie? Do you know him?" she asked, giggling softly.

He rolled his eyes at her. "You mean Itachi who just saved you from Hidan? Don't you realise he's -"

"No, the other guy… - wait, what?" Sakura's eyes widened in surprise and she suddenly leaned sideways, looking around Shikamaru at the two older men, cutting into their discussion.

"Excuse me, but is your name…" she asked loudly, pausing as she tried to contain her laughter. "Is your name, Itachi?"

The man slowly turned to look at her and nodded.

"And you're… you're Sasuke's older brother?"

He nodded once more and Sakura fell into peals of laughter.

Shikamaru immediately sighed. "Sakura…"

"Can he… say… 'meow'?" she asked between gasps, barely able to speak as she howled with laughter, and distinctly heard the Nara heir above her snort.

"Fuck, she's wasted," Shisui stated, clearly amused. "The hell is she on about?"

"Sakura, stop being so troublesome," Shikamaru eventually told her, forcing the glass into her hand. "Drink, now."

"Who the hell is she?" Shisui asked and Sakura wanted nothing more than to introduce herself to the gorgeous Uchiha man when a cool, familiar voice answered for her instead.

"Haruno Sakura."

Shikamaru turned around, moving aside at the sound of the voice and Sakura spotted Sasori suddenly standing next to Itachi. Immediately her giddiness evaporated and was replaced with a sense of dread.

"Suna's number one party girl," the red-head continued, his brown eyes roaming over her. "At least, that was the case the last time I saw you. I heard things went south afterwards. I'm surprised to find you here, Sakura."

"What are you doing here?" she asked quietly, hating how vulnerable she suddenly sounded.

Sasori took a couple of steps towards her and Sakura tensed.

"I decided to spend a year abroad at Konoha U," he explained. "It's funny that we should meet again, I actually have some unfinished business to discuss with you. If you fellows don't mind?"

He turned back towards the two Uchiha and Shisui gave a shrug before turning away. Itachi gave Sakura a final glance then followed his friend.

"Sakura…" Shikamaru began, his eyes flicking back and forth between her and the red-head.

Fearing whatever Sasori might say in front of her friend, Sakura decided it was best to speak to the red-head in private.

"Shika, it's fine," she reassured him, sipping water from the glass. "Just give us five minutes."

He frowned at her but eventually nodded, before turning away and heading towards the bar.

"New boyfriend?" Sasori asked, a smile curving his lips.

Sakura ignored his question. "Sasori, what do you want?"

"I'm here for the money that you owe me," he answered in a detached manner although his body towered over her in a threatening stance.

Sakura felt her stomach clench at his words. "Temari told me that she'd sort it out."

The red-head's smile accentuated slightly. "She didn't. Or at least I didn't let her. Why let my cousin pay for all the good times that you enjoyed? Surely you can pay for them yourself."

Shit!

Sakura's knuckles turned white as she gripped the edge of the bench hard with one hand.

"I don't have that kind of money and you know it," she insisted, putting her glass down on the table. She was starting to feel faint and wished she hadn't sent Shikamaru away. It never even occurred to her that Sasori was here to collect money. "Sort it out with Kankuro. He's the one who gave me the pills in the first place."

"Funny, that's not how he sees it."

"Yeah, well he's lying!" Sakura hissed, holding her forehead as she felt her head spin.

Sasori crouched down before her and she felt his fingertips trace her temple, before tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

"And who exactly am I more likely to believe, hmm? You or my cousin?" he asked coolly, although the underlying anger told her he wasn't playing anymore. Sakura froze at his words, knowing very well what he was capable of. From the outside, Sasori may be a well-bred clan member with the face of an angel but it was all a cover-up to hide his true nature. Everyone in Suna knew not to mess with the city's most vicious drug dealer.

"It's not my problem anymore," Sakura evaded, already knowing he wouldn't drop the matter so easily.

His brown eyes narrowed and he suddenly snatched her hand away from her face, twisting her wrist. "Oh it's still very much your problem, Sakura, and we're simply going to have to find a way for you to pay what you owe me."

Crap!

Sakura tried to pull away from him, but his other hand grasped her chin tightly, forcing her to look at him.

"Do I make myself clear?" he whispered sharply.

"Sasori, let go of me -"

His grip tightened and she winced in pain.

"You didn't answer my question."

"And she told you to let her go," a deep voice came from behind him.

Sasuke!

Sakura's eyes went wide with surprise as a murderous-looking Sasuke stood before them. His posture was rigid and the cold look in his dark eyes was damn right terrifying.

What is he doing here?

She noticed Shikamaru was there too, standing slightly in retreat. Sasori let go of her chin and slowly stood back up, a condescending look on his face as he turned to face Sasuke.

"Uchiha Sasuke," he acknowledged before he glanced back down at Sakura. "Looks like Sakura knows how to pick her friends."

"Shut up," Sasuke growled, taking a threatening step. The bruise on his cheek made him look even more dangerous.

"Is he even aware of what you were like in Suna?" Sasori spoke over his shoulder at Sakura. Sasuke's eyes briefly glanced down at her and she bowed her head. "Does he know how it ended?"

Sasuke roughly grabbed him by the collar, tugging him forward. "Shut the fuck up and leave."

"Sasuke," Shikamaru warned him and after a pause Sasuke eventually released his hold, his eyes still narrowed into slits.

Sasori chuckled in return. "I'll see you around, Sakura."

He walked around the boys and headed towards the poker table, where the players had been watching the exchange with interest from afar.

"Sasuke…" Sakura said hesitantly.

His eyes stared at the red skin around her wrist. "Are you okay?"

Sakura nodded. "I -"

"Where's Naruto?" Sasuke cut her off, turning to Shikamaru.

"He's in the back with Konan. We won't be seeing him again tonight."

"Then let's go."

He turned towards Sakura, grasping her upper arms gently and helping her up.

"It's fine, I can walk," Sakura assured him and followed Shikamaru out of the lounge, stumbling at little once they reached the steps, but immediately she felt Sasuke by her side, his hands catching her. They continued down the corridor, his hand on the small of her back the whole time.

Sakura didn't know how Sasuke had found out where she was or why he'd come after her, but she was grateful that he did and the thought of him standing up to Sasori on her behalf brought a smile on her lips.

..~**~..


..~**~..

To say Sasuke was pissed was an understatement.

His night had gone from ignoring annoying fan girls as he waited by the pool for Sakura to return, to trying to ditch a drunk Chiaki, who just because he'd fucked her a couple of times last year, thought that gave her the right to harass him all evening. She'd approached him rather smoothly and if Sasuke had been in the right mind set, he might have been tempted, but now his thoughts were only filled of a pink-haired girl, who wasn't anywhere to be seen.

The thought of her walking around the party wearing a tiny black dress with so many creeps about annoyed him to no end.

However, what angered him even more was the way Chiaki wouldn't take 'no' for an answer even after he'd brushed her off.

"Oh come on, Sasuke-kun," she whispered in his ear as she slowly eased herself on his lap. "I know you want to. You never refused me before last year."

"That was last year," he said coldly, twisting his face away as her lips closed in dangerously.

She giggled in his ear. "And what's changed since then? Don't tell me you've found yourself a girlfriend again?"

He preferred not to answer, wondering himself what his interest in Sakura would lead to. Clearly, she wasn't the type of girl he could just fool around with – she deserved better than being one of his one-night stands and besides Naruto would skin him alive if he ever hurt her. For now, Sakura was his friend but now that she constantly invaded his mind, he wondered how long their friendship would last.

"Fine, you're no fun," Chiaki concluded, pouting slightly before slipping off his lap. "If you ever change your mind, you know where to find me."

Or not…

After she left, Sasuke grabbed a beer and walked around the gardens sticking to the shadows, guessing that he'd spot Sakura from afar if she ever made it outside.

After a while, he noticed Kiba instead hunched over a flower bed, puking his guts out and scowled. The Inuzuka never knew when to draw the line with alcohol and often ended up sick if Shikamaru or Neji weren't around to watch him. Naruto was just as bad.

He noticed his friend was already being taken care of by a senior that Sasuke recognised from the cheer squad. He wondered whether she might know about Sakura's whereabouts and before he realised it he was already walking towards them.

"Oh, Sasuke-kun," she exclaimed, surprised. He remembered seeing her frequently with Ino and the girls before and always flirting with either Kiba or Naruto during lunch. Kaori, was it?

"Hey, man," Kiba groaned, looking unusually pale.

Sasuke smirked back at him. "Too much rhum?"

"Yeaaah," Kiba admitted before his chest heaved and he was throwing up in the flowers again.

"Here, I found a bottle of water."

Sasuke looked over his shoulder to find another cheerleader, another senior who based for Sakura, jogging towards them a bottle in hand.

"Oh hey, Sasuke," she greeted him and stepped closer to Kiba, waiting for him to settle down a little before handing him the bottle. "Here you go, drink up. You'll feel better."

Kiba gave her a grateful look as he panted heavily.

"If you're looking for the girls, they were by the bathroom earlier, but I have no idea where they are now," the girl continued, turning to face him. "Don't worry, we'll take care of Kiba. Make sure Ino's okay, yeah?"

Sasuke frowned slightly. Ino?

"Aa." He left without another word wondering what the girl meant. Reaching the pool again, he dug out his phone and noticed several missed calls from Shikamaru as well as a text.

Where the hell are you? Sakura followed Naruto upstairs and Hidan found her.

Sasuke felt a chill pass over him.

She's upstairs? What the fuck is she doing up there?

He took off towards the house and the crowd naturally parted to let him pass as they noticed the furious look on his face. He barely remembered going up the stairs or heading down the corridor. All he knew was that Sakura should never have found her way up there and if Hidan or any of his brother's sick friends had touched her, there would be hell to pay.

Once he reached the lounge, he immediately spotted Shikamaru sitting on a bar stool, texting away. He looked up when Sasuke approached.

"It's about time you got here," he drawled, putting his phone away.

"Where is she?" he demanded urgently, but his eyes quickly caught a flash of pink.

She was sitting down by a table, a nearly empty tequila bottle beside her. Sasuke noticed the drug dealer from Suna kneeling in front of her, invading her personal space and felt his anger skyrocket. When he caught sight of the bastard twisting Sakura's wrist, he saw red.

He didn't know what he said exactly as he intervened, but the look of relief that flashed across Sakura's face told him everything he needed to know.

"Is he even aware of what you were like in Suna? Does he know how it ended?"

Sasuke didn't like what the red-head was insinuating and the effect his words had on Sakura made his blood boil. Sasuke had been on the receiving end of Sakura's angry outbursts and glares for over a month now. Hell she hit Naruto more times throughout the day than the boy could say ramen and yet here next to Sasori, she was cowering.

Watching the Suna bastard leave did nothing to soothe Sasuke's temper. He knew he needed to get Sakura away from his brother and his friends first, however, he was still fuming and almost wished he could have put his fist through the little shit's face. He was angry at Sakura for following Naruto in the first place, angry at himself for not realising earlier and angry at all the fuckers that were staring at them as they left. Spotting his brother among the crowd, sitting in the shadows with a knowing look on his face, Sasuke gritted his teeth and walked away.

Although Sakura was doing her best not to act like it, he could tell that she was wasted and to his surprise her dilated pupils and flitting eyes told him she wasn't only under the effects of alcohol.

He helped her down the main staircase, keeping a firm grip on her arm and spotted Tenten from afar pacing about the hallway, phone in her hands.

"I need to find Ino," Shikamaru stated behind them with a sigh. "Unless you still need me…?"

"We'll be fine," Sasuke told him and the Nara heir disappeared back in the crowd just as Tenten noticed them.

"Oh shit," she cursed, taking one look at Sakura. "Is she okay? I'm sorry, Sasuke, I knew it was a bad idea from the start but she insisted and…"

"You should have warned me." His tone was harsh but he didn't care. The girls were Sakura's friends, weren't they? Why had none of them had tried to reach him?

Tenten at least had the decency to look guilty. "We tried to find you but we couldn't and then when we asked around Chiaki told us you'd left."

Sasuke tsked in annoyance. "I was in the gardens," he explained briefly before turning to Sakura. "I'll go get some water, wait here."

"I need the toilet," Sakura spoke up, taking a step forward as Sasuke frowned.

"I'll go with her," Tenten offered, taking the girl's elbow. "We'll meet you back here."

Sasuke nodded and made his way to the kitchen, looking for a bottle. He brushed off the brunette who attempted to make small talk with him and headed straight back to the hallway once he found what he was looking for.

"Here." He thrust the bottle in Sakura's hands as soon as she returned. "Was she staying at Ino's tonight?"

Tenten nodded. "I'll take her back and put her to bed."

"No, I'll take her," Sasuke muttered, sending a quick text to the others. "Tell Ino we left."

Tenten looked back at him slightly stunned. "Okay, I will."

Sasuke turned to leave as the girls said their goodbyes and halted at the front door, waiting for Sakura.

She followed him quietly, opening the water bottle in her hands. Sasuke kept an eye on her as they walked away from the loud music and down the moonlit alleyway leading to Ino's house. She was coming down from whatever she had taken and looked pretty tired. She still stumbled a couple of times and had trouble walking in a straight line, causing Sasuke to eventually grab her around the waist and pull her against him.

She immediately tensed. "Sasuke!"

"Just lean on me and shut up," he said forcefully.

Instead, she pulled away and stopped to face him. "Why are you so angry?"

Sasuke looked back at her incredulously. "Are you serious?" he spoke harshly, calmness drifting away. "Don't you realise what Hidan and his lot would have done to you if Shikamaru hadn't been there?"

"Actually… your brother was the one who intervened," Sakura admitted quietly.

Sasuke felt his fists clench on instinct at the thought of his brother.

"Of course he did," he snarled to himself before rounding on her again. "Why the hell did you go after Naruto in the first place?"

"He took drugs, Sasuke," Sakura countered, raising her voice.

So did you, Sasuke thought drlyly but decided not to mention it.

"And from a guy who hates him as well," she continued. "I was worried so I went after him."

"Naruto can handle himself. Damn it, Sakura, you should have come find me like I asked you to."

"I tried," Sakura retorted hotly and Sasuke silently wondered if her green eyes had always held such intensity before, "but I couldn't find you."

"I was outside by the pool."

"Yeah, I know," Sakura answered, after a moment. "I found you eventually, but you seemed busy. With Chiaki."

She watched him closely for any reaction, but he gave none. Instead he watched her nervously uncap the water bottle and take a sip.

"Whatever, it's not like I care."

Her words drew a smirk to his lips because obviously she did. And surprisingly, the thought didn't bother him at all.

"Chiaki is just like the guy I found you with," he explained, catching her arm again. "They can't seem to take 'no' for an answer."

This time she let him lead her away, leaning on him ever so slightly as they continued towards Ino's house again.

"How do you know Sasori?" Sasuke eventually asked.

"He's Kankuro's cousin," Sakura answered after a moment.

"Kankuro?"

"My ex-boyfriend."

Everything suddenly seemed to make sense concerning Sakura's familiarity with Sasori and his world. Sasuke didn't like hanging with Itachi and his friends but that didn't mean he knew nothing about them and he had heard quite a bit concerning the Suna drug dealer from Deidara.

"Anything else?" Sasuke demanded, hoping she might open up more to him about her past.

Sakura remained silent for a moment until a sigh escaped her lips. "Look, things were rather different in Suna. I was different. I fell in love with the wrong guy, mixed with the wrong crowd and generally did some very stupid things. I didn't even realise what I was doing until it was too late. I trusted Kankuro, completely, blindly, he was my first love…"

Her face turned somber and Sasuke could tell she was lost in her thoughts, reliving specific memories.

"I should have known better," she finished, a hint of sadness in her voice.

Sasuke remained silent by her side and eventually Ino's house came in view.

..~**~..


..~**~..

Sakura felt sick and tired and wanted nothing more than to brush her teeth and pass out on a bed, yet when she made her way towards the pool house, she noticed Sasuke still hadn't left her side.

"I can put myself to bed," she told him with a smile.

He kept on walking nonetheless. "Hn."

"Sasuke, you don't need to -"

"I'm not leaving," he replied, his voice leaving no room for discussion.

She looked back at him slightly stunned. Why was he even here? Why was he going out of his way to make sure she got back safely? Surely he had better things waiting for him back at the party. Surely he didn't want to be here.

Unless…

But Sakura didn't want to think about it. There was simply no way, no way Sasuke cared about her. Sure they were friends and sure just like with the other guys he felt some stupid sense of duty towards her because she was a girl or Tsunade's niece or whatever... but to go to so much effort for her.

She blushed when she remembered how he'd confronted Sasori. She felt like such an idiot taking a tab and getting wasted like she had, thinking she had a chance to hold her own. If Sasuke's brother hadn't intervened, she probably would have followed Hidan without even realising.

And then Sasori…

Sakura didn't even want to think about what his presence in Konoha implied for her. He was sure to come find her again soon, she knew what he was like, and the next time, Sakura didn't know how she'd deal with him.

Everything was so messed up. All she'd wanted was to celebrate Ino's party with her friends and now she was being put to bed like a child by Uchiha Sasuke, who probably thought she was an idiot now.

"I'll be right back," Sakura told him once they reached Ino's bedroom and she stumbled across the room towards the bathroom, taking her ankle boots off as she did.

Using the toilet again after downing so much water, she washed her hands and proceeded to brush her teeth to get rid of the taste of tequila. She checked her reflection quickly in the mirror and was grateful that her make-up hadn't smeared although her eyes appeared slightly red.

She emerged from the bathroom and found Sasuke standing beside Ino's desk, his back turned to her as he stared at various photos scattered on the bedroom wall. He looked ridiculously attractive in light jeans and a black lightweight hoodie rolled up to his sleeves with a white V-neck shirt underneath. His ebony hair was sticking up in the back as usual, but it suited him. In fact, Sakura realised, Sasuke looked amazing no matter what he wore.

And he was here now… with her.

Sakura took a minute to compose herself and do her best not to act like a drunken fool anymore. She cleared her throat and he turned around, his eyes scanning her once more to make sure she was alright and again she was bewildered by his attention.

"I'm going to head to bed," she told him quietly.

"Will you be alright?"

"Head back to the party," she reassured him with a smile, sitting down on the edge of Ino's bed. "You've done more than enough already, I'll be fine. Just be sure to avoid Sasori and his friends, you guys were already in a fight last night. No need for a repeat."

He nodded once, watching her closely. "He comes near you again, let me know."

"Sasuke..."

"No, Sakura," he growled, staring her down as he stepped closer to the bed. "If any of those guys touch you again, you tell me. If any of them cause trouble, you tell me. No more doing things by yourself."

"Really, there's no need to -" The look he gave her, however, told her otherwise.

"I'm serious." His eyes burned with an intensity she'd never seen before as he lifted a hand to her face and brushed a stray strand of pink hair behind her ear. "I didn't like seeing that asshole touch you like that."

She felt her heart jolt at his words.

Why, Sasuke? Why does it matter to you? Why are you even bothering with me?

After a while, she nodded back at him and he turned away, saying goodnight over his shoulder before heading for the door.

"Wait!"

Before she even realised what she was doing, she jumped from the bed and caught his arm. His dark eyes flicked from her hand to her face and he waited for her to speak.

"Thanks for what you did… you didn't have to and yet… I mean…" She could feel her face flush with embarrassment as she rambled on and finally gathering up her courage, she whispered softly. "Thank you, Sasuke."

And without thinking, she stood on her tiptoes and pecked him on the cheek.

Surprise flashed briefly across his face and Sakura abruptly pulled back, regretting her action.

I shouldn't have done that... Now he'll think I've turned into a fangirl and he'll avoid me and…

Sasuke's hand curled around her wrist and her mind blanked as he gently tugged her back. She looked back in surprise, her green eyes searching his face as he moved in closer, suddenly inches away from her.

Her heart beat wildly as his hooded, dark eyes studied her face for a moment. He was so close that she could feel his hot breath on her lips, causing her mind to go blank. The look in his eyes became too much to bear and she averted her gaze just as he dipped his head down and boldly pressed his lips against hers.

The feel of his soft lips against her own caused her heart to jolt and she barely moved as his mouth slowly worked against hers, coaxing her. Sakura remembered to breathe again and felt her eyes flutter shut as she began to respond to him. Sasuke's mouth was hot against hers and she was immediately reminded why she had loved kissing him so much at Kiba's party. Angling her head, he immediately deepened the kiss, his tongue greedily plunging into her mouth. His mouth moved urgently against hers and she curled her hands around his neck, tugging his hair slightly and giving into her emotions and desire which grew to new heights every time his tongue glided across her own. She moaned against his mouth softly and his hands grasped her waist in response, pressing her closer to him. She could feel the warmth of his body seep through the thin material of her dress and making her dizzy.

Feeling his hands glide up to her rib cage, Sakura immediately slipped her hands to Sasuke's chest and pushed him away, effectively breaking them apart. What on earth were they doing? Were they really doing this? Was this really what they wanted or was this just the outcome of all the alcohol in their systems?

They breathed heavily, keeping close and neither wanting to let go. Sasuke kept his hands on Sakura's waist and his intense gaze remained locked on hers.

She swallowed hard. "Sasuke…" She trailed off not trusting her voice to speak.

What are we doing?

As if in answer to her silent question, his hand curled around her neck, his thumb slowly caressing her jawline before he captured her lips once more.

..~**~..


I can't write kissing scenes to save my life! I had to rewrite the last part a bazillion times and I'm still not happy with it. If you like it, that's great, otherwise I'm open to suggestions. Anyway, I hope you appreciated things moving forward. They will keep moving forward from now on as you'll find out. Sorry I couldn't put every Akatsuki member in this chapter (it's long enough already) but at least you got to meet a few including Itachi and Shisui. I absolutely loved writing Hidan so he'll back and so will Sasori of course.

What are you most looking forward to now?

Tell me in a review! sai xxx