A Poor Substitute

DISCLAIMER: I don't own Naruto… obviously. I'm not making any money off of this story, so don't sue please and thank you.

Author's note: This is the final chapter and finale to my story 'A Poor Substitute'. I originally wasn't going to write a sequel (It was supposed to end with ch.1), but because of all the wonderful reviews and PM's I decided to finish it. I really hope it lives up to all of your expectations. Also this story is self-edited and may contain some mistakes. Please feel free to PM me and I'll try to fix them as soon as possible.

WARNING: This chapter is mostly just fluff. For a gratuitous lemon please go to my first chapter. With that being said, this chapter is rated M for mature themes and language. Please only read if you are of legal age. You have been warned. Let us all assume everyone in this story is of legal age. I would think of them at around 20 or so.

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Sakura watched as Sasuke's eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fell to the floor like a dead weight, sending them both slumping to the ground with him on top of her. She took in gulps of air and looked around Sasuke's head and stared up into beautiful white eyes in shame and surprise. He was positively fuming, his anger crackling off of him like unseen sparks.

Carefully Neji rolled the unconscious body of the Uchiha to the side and held a hand down to her. She grabbed it thankfully and used the wall and his hand to push herself to her feet while sliding her skirt back down over her thighs.

"Are you okay?" He asked, watching as she gaped at him and the unconscious man at their feet.

She brought a hand up and ran it through her long pink hair and then smoothed down her shirt and skirt. "Y..Yeah, I guess so," she said, but then she started to shake. Her teeth chattered and her limbs shook as if she was cold, but she wasn't really, at least not on the outside. Inside her mind felt like it was frozen and as cold as ice. What the hell just happened? She thought numbly. She jumped when she felt a hand touch her shoulder scaring them both and he pulled back as if she had burned him.

"You're not okay," he said finally, "You're shaking."

Always one to point out the obvious, she thought. I'm fine. I'm okay. Nothing wrong here, just my childhood friend and crush tried to…. She couldn't bring herself to think the word. She started to shake her head over and over. "No, It's okay. I.. thank you Neji," is what she said aloud.

He reached forward then suddenly and grabbed her face and forced her to look at him, staring into her frightened eyes. They were dull and lifeless all spark gone completely. He trailed his gaze downwards and frowned at her pale lips and chattering teeth. "You're lying," he said simply. He closed the distance between them and took her in his arms and pulled her to his chest. She pushed at him for a moment, but eventually she stopped and became completely immobile, and then she began to cry.

Once again he didn't know what to do as he held her to him. He himself was shaking a bit from adrenaline and anger as his heart threatened to tear itself out of his chest. He came back to talk to her, or at least ask to see her later, but what he saw had surprised him. At first his anger had welled up deep within him as he saw her kissing him with such passion, but then something changed. He listened as she told him no, and his heart soared. Maybe she wouldn't want the Uchiha after all. Then everything changed and he watched in growing alarm when she started to become frantic and the Uchiha did not stop like she asked. He wondered why she didn't just push him away or hit him, but then he was entering her and she was screaming, and his world boiled over with anger and fear and he saw red. He had to act, he had to do something, and now he was glad he did. What would have happened had he not intervened? He shuttered at the thought.

Now as he stared down at her he didn't know what to do and it frightened him. Hitting the rat traitor had been easy, comforting the sobbing girl in his arms was more difficult. Why was it that his chest was hurting him so? Why did his heart feel like it physically pained him?

He waited till her sobs died down and it was only then that he pulled away from her. She looked up at him with a hurt look in her eyes and he frowned. He brought a hand down and pushed her hair out of her face and wiped away her tears. It was amazing that even after a crying fit she could still look so beautiful. Her eyes were shining now, in a way that no emerald could. Her face was flush, but not unattractively, and her skin seemed to glow. He immediately felt a little guilty and awkward for ogling her the way he was so soon after something that must have been rather traumatic, but he couldn't help himself. It was her fault that she looked so pretty, but it would be his fault if he pushed her too soon.

"I could have stopped him," she hiccupped. "I was going to. I'm not weak," she said darkly daring him to think or say otherwise.

"I know," he said simply. "Would you like me to call for Lady Tsunade so she can deal with him?" He asked pointing his gaze at the unconscious Uchiha who was sprawled on the floor in a muddled half-naked heap.

Sakura's eyes went wide. "No. I can't tell Tsunade what happened. I just can't," she said quickly, shaking her head back and forth.

Neji frowned. "Would you like to tell me why the hell not?" He asked stepping away from her and crossed his arms over his chest.

Sakura looked up at him in a panic. "He just got back. I can't say anything. Knowing Shishou, she would throw him in jail or something. She's just waiting for an excuse to lock him away or have him killed. I can't let that happen to him, not because of me."

"Well then perhaps he should have been smart enough not to try to commit crimes this soon after he was offered amnesty," he said hotly.

Sakura's brows furrowed. "You don't understand."

Neji sighed exasperatedly, staring at her like she had gone mad. Maybe she had. He wasn't a doctor, but he was quite sure that sometimes people said and did nonsensical things when they went into shock. Perhaps he should take her to the hospital or something. Finally he conceded. "I won't make you do anything you don't want to," he sighed, the implication going unsaid. "Are you feeling alright?" he asked again doubtfully.

"I'm fine," she ground out between gritted teeth. She walked past him then and bent down over Sasuke. She reached forward and healed the bump on the back of his head and then checked his pulse. Whatever she felt she must have been satisfied with because the next second she stood and turned back to face him.

She looked so angry all of a sudden. What had he done? he wondered. "Now you're mad at me," he said carefully tilting his head to the side trying to understand the pink enigma in front of him. Were women usually this difficult to understand? He didn't remember having to try this hard with TenTen, of course he never slept or tried to date TenTen, so he was sure that this was some sort of relationship difficulty.

"I'm not mad," she huffed as she started to walk past him down the hall leaving both him and the Uchiha behind. He had to jog slightly to keep up, but when he got into stride with her he frowned.

"Where are you going?" He asked trying to decipher the emotions that were passing over her face. They both walked out of the tower and into the bright sunlight and she let out an exasperated cry. It surprised him and made him jump. Yes, perhaps she had gone mad… After she had settled down she closed her eyes and put her hands on the side of her head and took in long slow breaths.

Neji looked at her nervously, chewing the inside of his cheek, as if she were going to start ticking and explode, maybe she would. He wasn't foolish to rule anything out when it came to Sakura. He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Sakura please tell me what to do and I will do it," he huffed in frustration. How was it this woman could make him feel so helpless?

"I can still feel him on my body, inside of me," she said in a very small voice. "I just want to go home and take a shower and never get out." Her eyes were filling with tears again and his heart did a very strange flip-flop. He didn't like it when she cried he realized. In a hurry to catch her before she lost herself in tears he stepped forward and took her in his arms. "Then let me take you home. You can shower there and I will keep you safe, I promise."

Sakura looked up at him doubtfully, but the look she saw in his eyes was so sincere that she couldn't tell him no. She didn't want to tell him no, especially not after what had happened with Sasuke. Her heart painfully restricted in her chest and she mentally chastised herself. She didn't want to think about him anymore and she especially didn't want to think about what had happened. She nodded her head and looked up at the man standing in front of her. How strange that even though she wanted to forget everything and be left alone, she didn't want to be away from him. Perhaps she had underestimated her feelings for the white eyed jounin in front of her. She smiled and held out her hand for him to take. "Okay, let's go." She said softly.

Neji stared down at the hand she was offering for him to hold. Was she serious? She wanted to hold his hand of all things? She huffed and wiggled her fingers impatiently so he walked forward and took it like she wanted. He felt ridiculous, but it seemed to make her feel better so he mentally shrugged and followed her back to her apartment without any more complaint.

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Neji sat on the edge of her bed as she showered. Curious, he activated his Byakugan and took in all the details of her apartment. It was actually quite plain much to his surprise. There only seemed to be a bed, dresser, and nightstand table, but there were small touches here and there that showcased her personality. The walls were white and plain but her bed was overflowing with pillows and blankets that were red and a soft pink color that matched her hair exactly. It wasn't a color he would ever imagine furnishing his own room with of course, it looked too much like a child's overly iced birthday cake in his opinion, but it matched her just fine.

Next to the bed was a red dresser that had a few pictures on it, one of them a photo that he could tell was taken in her early genin days. It showed the face of a smiling lazy copycat ninja, an overjoyed Sakura, and her two teammates scowling at each other enclosed simple black frame. He had a picture much like it with his own team at home.

Next to it was a very small photo of a wedding ceremony with a middle aged couple smiling lovingly at each other, the woman's pink hair shining behind a beautiful white ivory comb. Sakura looked very much like her mother he came to realize. He felt a little twinge in his chest as he ran his hand over the woman in the photo and he wished that he could have met her before she died. It made him think of his own mother and father, but he quickly snuffed those feelings before they could surface. He was very good at burying his emotions, he had to be.

Then something caught his attention and he looked down the dresser and noticed a piece of red lacey fabric poking out of one of the drawers. Curious, he thought, tilting his head to the side. He reached down then and rubbed the fabric between his fingers and smirked at its soft delicate texture. When he pulled his hand away the small garment fell out of the dresser quite suddenly and he jumped reaching forward to grab it, and when he did he froze, mouth agape. It wasn't just any garment, it was underwear. No, underwear wasn't the right word for this scant lacey piece of fabric. There was much too little to cover anything important. He brought it up for closer inspection and fought the growing blush that spread up his neck and across his cheeks. Why in the world would someone wear something like this and how could he get Sakura to wear one of these for him?

"Neji, what are you doing?" A voice asked suddenly and he jumped as if someone had shot him in the ass with a Kunai.

"Panties!" he cried mortified as he jumped off of the bed and shoved said scanty red object into his pocket, hoping to Kami she hadn't seen what he had been doing. What the hell was wrong with him? He wasn't some prepubescent school boy who steals women's underwear, but it was too late to put them back now.

Sakura raised an eyebrow at him in confusion, "Huh?"

"Candies," he said suddenly, "Your bed looks like a child decorated it in taffy." After the words left his mouth he immediately regretted them. Kami I'm an idiot, she must think I'm some kind of degenerate, he kicked himself mentally.

"Uh huh," she said staring at him doubtfully, and then shrugged. They stared at each other a moment awkwardly before he spoke.

"So, how are you feeling?" he said hesitantly walking up to her and taking her hand to lead her over to her bed.

Her expression changed then and she suddenly became more remorse. He wished that she wouldn't look like that, but he was rather glad that she accepted the change of subject so quickly.

"Better," she mumbled and looked away from him. He didn't know what to say so he said nothing. It had taken him a while to notice that women usually needed to talk things out when they were upset, but he also noticed that they usually would talk when they felt like it and didn't always needed to be prompted to do so.

"I still feel kind of dirty you know?" She said in a small voice. "I just keep thinking that I'm so upset over what happened but I can't help but think… wasn't that exactly what I wanted?" She looked up at him expecting to see anger or disgust in his eyes, but she saw nothing. He was patiently waiting for her to continue, so she did. "All this time I've been waiting for him to come back, for him to tell me exactly what he did. I wanted him to want me, to need me, and now I have no idea what the hell I want." She looked over at the picture of her genin team that was lying on her dresser and frowned.

After a few minutes had passed he cleared his throat politely and her gaze shot back up to meet his. The pain in her eyes was so raw as she stared at him uncertainty. She looked so vulnerable and he wasn't used to seeing her look like that. He wanted the strong sexy Sakura back and at that moment he realized he would do anything to make that happen.

"Do you still love him?" He asked. He was afraid of the answer she would give him, but he had to know.

She sat there and looked at him, her eyes searching his, until finally she spoke. "You told me last night that you knew I didn't love you, how do you know?"

Well damn, that was unexpected. He really hated it when people answered a question with another question, but he sighed and thought about it. Well the obvious answer was that she had been pining after the Uchiha since before she was twelve years old. The better question would be why wouldn't she love him anymore? He shook his head. No that was a very stupid question. The rat defector had left her and her team without so much as a proper goodbye to go train with another traitor to the village for the sole purpose of murdering another murderer, and if memory served correctly, he had also tried to kill Sakura no less than two times. Why the hell would she still love him? Wait, what was the question she asked again? Oh yes, why did he presume that she didn't love him. Wait, did she love him?

"Do you love me Sakura?" He echoed aloud.

"That's just it, I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. I thought I loved Sasuke, I really did, but I just don't know anymore!" She turned her face to the side and began to cry again silently.

Damn it woman, stop it with the tears! He scowled internally, but outwardly he reached forward and put his arm around her waist and allowed her to settle her head on his shoulder trying to overcome the awkwardness and the twinge her being upset sent to his heart. Then he sighed. "Sakura I said I knew you didn't love me because I was afraid you didn't. You've been looking for Sasuke for so long, I just assumed your feelings have never changed. Now I see that I might have been wrong. Can't you see? I want to be wrong Sakura-chan, because I love y…" he stopped abruptly and he turned to look at her. She was staring at him with wide eyes, the shock plain on her face.

"You love me?" She asked all tears forgotten as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.

He blushed suddenly and cursed himself for letting his words escape him so bluntly. He tried to look away but she ducked her head to look up at him through his long dark hair.

"Do you love me?" She asked again touching his shoulder gently.

All of his breath left him in a rush and he looked up and reached out to touch the side of her face. "I do," he breathed.

She closed her eyes and brought her hand up to cradle his against her cheek and smiled. "You know, you told me last night that all you wanted from me is my loyalty and honesty. Is that still true? Do you want me to be honest with you Neji?"

The question confused him. Of course he wanted her to be loyal and honest with him, why would that have changed? "Yes," he said carefully, looking at her suspiciously. She nodded and suddenly he was blinking up at her slightly dazed, his back pressed into her soft bed.

She giggled at his adorable expression of surprise and pinned his body with her own. She straddled his waist and leaned over him letting her pink hair fan around them like a bubblegum curtain and smiled seeing the two colors of their hair meld together, pink and black. "Then honestly Hyuga, I want you to love me," she purred.

"But I do love y…" he began to say confusedly, but she interrupted him.

"No, I want you to love me," she said rolling her hips against his proving her point, and smiled when his eyes widened and his breath hitched. Then she leaned down and kissed him softly, barely touching her lips to his. "Make me forget everything else," she whispered against his mouth. "Let me show you how much I love you. Make me yours again."

He looked up at her in surprise as his brain tried to make sense of what she had just said. She seriously had a knack for surprising and confusing the hell out of him. She could be soft and gentle one moment, and then in the very next she could be playful and forceful. This was the girl who was as beautiful as her namesake implied, but could be as deadly as any shinobi he had ever known. He never knew what to expect from her, but he honestly wouldn't want it any other way. A bright smile spread across his face and he leaned up, capturing her lips with his and threaded his hands into her soft pink strands. He kissed her as gently and deeply as possible, putting all his love and devotion into the kiss as he could manage. His heart soared when he felt that she was doing the same.

When they pulled back from each other they were both smiling. Then Sakura gave a surprised yelp when he suddenly grabbed her waist and rolled them both till he was resting on top of her. "As you wish," he said softly, and did exactly what she asked.

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Morning pressed through the curtains of her bedroom, the light reflecting off of the dark hair of the man beside her. He was lying on his side facing her, eyes closed as his chest rose and fell softly in sleep. He looked so peaceful, and she couldn't help but smile. She rolled her eyes to the window and noticed that it was midmorning and groaned. Her shift at the hospital would start soon. She briefly thought about sending a message to Tsunade telling her she couldn't come in today, but then immediately felt guilty. She had a job to do, and no matter how much she wanted to stay in bed with the wonderful man beside her, she would get up and get ready to go do her job. She sighed and when she looked back to look at his beautiful sleeping face she let out a yelp in surprise.

"Morning Sakura," he said, apparently wide awake, his milky eyes bright and staring at her.

She jumped. "Kami, you scared me to death!" she cried.

He chuckled and scooted closer to her until they were nose to nose. "Boo," he said softly and then kissed her gently.

She smirked and kissed him back. "Ha ha, very funny." Then she let a long outdrawn groan as she rolled onto her back. "I don't want to go to work," she moaned, bringing a hand down to cover her eyes.

He chuckled then and took her into his arms and rested his chin on top of her head. "I'll take that as a compliment, but you're the Hokage's apprentice. How good would it look if not even you wants to go to work?"

"Stop making sense, it's annoying," she grunted taking a lock of his hair and twirling it between her fingers.

"Truly?" He scoffed.

She let out a sharp laugh. "No."

"Then get up," he commanded, sitting up suddenly. He rolled to the edge of the bed and put his feet to the floor. He walked around the side then and stood in front of her. She scowled at him and it made him chuckle.

"You are far too bossy Hyuga," she whined.

His eyebrows rose in surprise. "This coming from you, she who has the foulest temper in the village… besides the Hokage of course." He smirked when she let out a huff of rage and threw herself off the bed trying to grab at him. He dodged skillfully of course, and she stumbled past him and smacked into a wall with a surprised and angry oomph!

"Hyuga I'm going to kill you!" She shrieked as she spun around and stomped back towards him. Just as she lifted her hand back to hit him he pulled her against his body suddenly and threaded his hand in her hair and kissed her. She let out a small noise in shock, but it didn't take long for her to forget her anger and melt into his lips and body completely. Apparently seducing her made her anger dissipate completely. Very interesting, he thought, and filed that information away for later.

She deepened the kiss and smirked against his mouth when she felt something warm and solid pressed against the front of her body. Slowly she reached down and grazed the head of him and bit back a laugh when he groaned. Seducing me is a double edged sword buddy, she thought as she brought her hand around the shaft and started to play with him wickedly.

"You're insatiable," he breathed and closed his eyes allowing her to stroke him gently.

"You have no idea," she whispered back.

He leaned forward then and whispered against the side of her face. "Come take a shower with me. You're running out of time. It's getting late and I want to give you a proper goodbye before you have to go to work." He pulled away then and chuckled when he saw her pout.

"Oh go on then," she said impatiently. "I'll just get my clothes and I'll be right in."

He nodded and turned, walking towards the bathroom. She watched him go, appreciating the scrumptious view of his backside till the door snapped closed. She let out a content sigh and went to her dresser then and pulled it open taking out some underwear and her medic uniform. Once she had her clothes collected in her arms she started making her way to the bathroom, but something caught her eye and she paused. On the ground was their clothing that they had not so carefully shed last night, strewn about the floor, but what caught her eye was a bit of red that was peeking out of Neji's pants. She leaned down and pulled on the thin fabric and it came out easily into her hand. Then she froze, anger bubbling to the surface once more.

"Neji, what the fuck are you doing with my underwear in your pocket!?" She screeched.

There was a long guilty pause behind the bathroom door before she heard a soft click of the lock being thrown. She dropped the clothes in her arms and clutched the red lacey panties in her hands as she stomped her way to the door. "You had better answer my question Hyuga or I'm going to break down this fucking door!" she cried, her anger boiling over.

Behind the door Neji took in a sharp guilty breath. He had completely forgotten about the underwear. He was guessing that she wouldn't believe him if he said he hadn't known what it was when he picked it up, and certainly wouldn't have put it in his pocket had she not startled him. Think Hyuga, think fast.

"Perhaps taking a shower alone would be more efficient!" he cried, and then turned the shower knob and hot steamy water poured down around him. It probably would be better if he took a shower alone today, only if he valued his life that is, especially when there was a pink angry freight train on the other side of the door. Then there was as loud boom as said bathroom door exploded inwards sending splitters of wood all over the floor. Neji sighed, looks like there wasn't going to be a shower today.

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Sakura sighed. It was almost time to end her shift and she wanted nothing but to go home and take a nice long bath. She also couldn't wait to see him. He was due back from a mission tonight and he had promised her he would come see her. She told him she would leave her window unlocked.

She smiled. The last couple of weeks had been amazing. She never thought she would enjoy someone's company so much. Especially someone who didn't speak very much or very often, Sasuke aside, but she was loving every minute with Neji. She ended up telling her team that she and the white eyed ninja were together one afternoon after practice. Kakashi had looked at her in surprise and asked if he needed to have the talk with her. She only smiled wickedly and told him she was beyond talking at this point. He didn't bring it up again.

Naruto had bounced around like a mad man grinning and saying something about being family for real one day. Apparently he and Hinata had been in a relationship for quite some time too, and things were getting serious. She had smiled at him and said she always wanted a brother, and he hasn't stopped grinning at her since.

Sasuke… Sasuke never told anyone what had happened that day in the hall of the Hokage tower. That was fine by her, so neither had she. She figured if he was going to ruin his chances for assimilation back into the village he was going to have to have only himself to blame and not anyone else, especially her. They didn't talk much however and that hurt. She still had feelings for him somewhere buried deep inside her heart, but they were fading with every touch, every kiss, and every time she looked into Neji's eyes and saw him smiling back at her. He told her he loved her. She still wasn't sure how she felt about him, but for now what they had was enough. She couldn't promise him eternity, chances were that one day one of them would die on a mission and never come back, but she could promise him right now that she would always be honest and loyal to him as long as she was able. For now, that was good enough for him too.

She smiled and looked up at the clock and saw it was time to leave. She rose and made her way out of her office and took out a key, locking it with a soft click. She walked down the hall and waved at her coworkers as they told her goodnight and to be safe on her walk home. It was a bit chilly outside as she walked back to her apartment in a contemplative silence.

How strange was it that she had never thought anything about Neji emotionally or physically before the night in the cave so many weeks ago? She wondered how long he had been wanting and waiting to kiss her the way he did. She supposed she was lucky he was a very patient man. She sighed as she reached her front door and unlocked it stepping inside. She made her way over to her bathroom but decided not to bathe after all, and got into bed after she stripped down to only her underwear. As she got under the covers she lost herself to her thoughts once more.

How was it that all this time she had been pining for someone she hadn't really known at all? It was like she had built some image of what Sasuke was and what she wanted him to be up in her head, but he wasn't anything like what she imagined and he certainly had never loved her at all. Sasuke couldn't see her anymore, he could only see the shadow of what she had once been when she was twelve years old. It hurt her to think about it, but it hurt even more that she saw the same in him. She had no idea who he was anymore, or he her. She hoped that one day they could patch their relationship and be friends again. The feelings that she once felt for him were fading almost every day, and she was okay with that. The love she had for Sasuke wasn't the real thing and it certainly wasn't what she felt for Neji. What she had felt for Sasuke was just an imitation of love. It was a shadow and a hollow emptiness filled with pain and longing. It hadn't been love, not truly, it was only just a poor substitute for the real thing.

Suddenly there was a sharp snap and Sakura's eyes shot open. She turned her head towards her window as the real thing stepped through into her room. Happiness flooded through her and she reached out for him and they both smiled.

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Ok so there you have it, the very long ending to my very long one shot! I hope all of you liked it and I hope it lived up to your expectations. I'm sorry to all you Sasuke fans out there, but I wanted to make this a Saku/neji story from start to finish. So tell me what you think! Did you like it, hate it? Let me know. As alway so please review ^_^

-Cricket