Sakura watched with agitation as he walked past her for the fifth time like she was invisible. Jade orbs glared when he didn't even glance her way, arm entwined with that blonde bimbo. So, he refused to dance with her but didn't seem to mind that blue-eyed menace. It only took a few moments for her anger to melt into sadness at the smirk that crossed his features. They ground their hips to the beat as if lost in their own private world. Jealousy stabbed her in the chest. The nights they spent together held importance to her. Sasuke's actions once again proved she meant nothing to him. Sakura irritably tapped her short nails on the round table by the bar. She lifted her a vodka tonic to her lips, watching him actively ignore her.
It hurt... damn it; it hurt like hell. They slept together three nights ago, joking and talking about serious topics one didn't discuss with everyone. Ever since Sasuke ignored any attempts contact. Sasuke even turned her down for sex. Sakura determined if he didn't want her as a girlfriend, staying close to him may change his mind. She thought sex would entice him, yet she received silence in response to her offer yesterday. Normally, sex brought him around. Since it didn't, the slap in the face it gave proved Sakura she needed self-respect. Still, it wasn't like she didn't know that. His lack of interest in anything other than sex made it obvious that he didn't want a relationship. He wanted a friend with benefits. Sakura understood that at first, but she messed up and got attached to him.
Sick of watching the couple and trying to fight the urge to cry, the twenty-one-year-old slid down from her stool to find for her friend. Cigarette smoke clouded her vision, making her eyes water. Sakura tried to convince herself the sight didn't cause tears as she spotted the brunette laughing with their friend Lee.
"Tenten, can we leave?" Sakura shouted over the music.
She gave Sakura a cocked look, chocolate eyes searching those of her friend. She turned and studied the laser lit dance floor, picking up on why Sakura wanted to leave suddenly when she had been so eager to go out.
"That little..." she said through gritted teeth, fingers sweeping a curl of dark brown hair behind her ear. "I'll destroy her."
As amazing as that sounded, the rosette placed a hand on Tenten's shoulder to calm her. As nice as kicking Ino's ass sounded, Sakura refused to stoop to her level and give herself negative attention. People knew how much she cared for Sasuke Uchiha. Ino ignored unwritten friendship rules of not going after a friend's crush. This situation put her at odds with their group of girlfriends, but Ino didn't care. She took what she wanted and whoever got ran over in the process didn't concern her. Their fault for getting in her way.
"I just want to go..."
Rock Lee stood from his place at the bar, placing down his cup of water. His low tolerance for alcohol made water a much safer choice.
"Sakura," he said firmly, pointing a gloved hand at her. "You are smart and beautiful and if Sasuke can't understand that, you don't need him!"
Sakura sighed. Those words fell on deaf ears because she wanted Sasuke whether he recognized her as someone who harbored a deep infatuation for him or not.
"Come," he said soothingly, placing an arm around her bare shoulders. "We will leave now."
As the trio exited the club, Sakura stole one last glance at Sasuke and bit the inside of her cheek when she witnessed them kissing.
"Bastard," she whispered angrily as they departed.
The taxi ride home only took a few minutes and once Lee got dropped off at his home, Tenten and Sakura pulled up to their apartment complex. It dark and gloomy, despite how the street lights reflected like pearls off its white surface. A canine barked loudly in the distance. The owner silenced it by shrieking "Shut the hell up, you stupid dog!"
Sakura a smile crept across her face at the sound of Mrs. Tsunade's voice. Why the former teacher didn't get rid of the animal since she hated it Sakura never understood, but her husband Jiraiya loved the little wiener dog to death. That surely played into it staying. Sakura gazed around the quiet parking lot, spotting a male figure walking toward them. She noticed his long, dark hair billowing gently in the wind as he approached and recognized who approached.
"There's Neji," Sakura said, turning playful eyes on Tenten.
She watched with amusement as her friend's cheek burned crimson and she fingered her curls and brushing her bangs back into place.
"Shit," she murmured. "I smell like a damn astray right now."
"All thanks to Black Shinobi," Sakura teased. "I wish they changed their policy to no smoking inside."
"Tell me about it," Tenten muttered after applying lip gloss.
Tenten put her lip gloss away just as Neji stopped in front of the two women. Tenten shot him a smile and asked, "What's got you outside?"
His lilac colored eyes turned to Tenten before looking up at the cloudy night sky. "I was taking a walk. Tonight is beautiful." His gaze dropped to the emerald green halter top dress that Tenten wore.
"I suppose you came from Black Shinobi?"
"Yeah," Sakura answered. "I wasn't having much fun, so we left."
"How can you when you're inhaling enough smoke to develop cancer?" he asked.
Sakura and Tenten laughed then said their goodnights. It took a few moments for Sakura to convince Tenten to leave with Neji. Tenten's amazing friend tendencies made her want to stay with Sakura. It took a lot of convincing. Sakura desired a few moments to herself after such a rough night. The young woman walked over to the large lake adjacent to her home, leaning her head back to let the cool breeze move over her heated skin until goosebumps chilled her. Sakura agreed with Neji's comment on the atmosphere. The dark purple clouds kissed by royal blue and a tinge of gray. The wind pushed them gently towards the north, blocking out the glow of the moon.
Sakura wrapped her arms around her body, gazing down at the black form-fitting dress she bought just to turn Sasuke's head. A manicured finger reached up to brush against the sequins that lined the side of it. She gazed around at the quiet environment. The lack of human activity made the atmosphere calm, but the creatures of the night alerted the world to their existence. Frogs croaked, grasshoppers tweeted their melody, and the occasional elegant hoot of the night owl sounded around her. Sakura reached the water's edge and sat on the old wooden bench underneath the glow of the street lamp, wincing at the pain in her feet from her three-inch heels. Never would she again wear these shoes just to attract a male... she struggled to walk in them without potentially falling and breaking her face, anyway.
Reaching down, she unhooked one silver stiletto from her ankle and rubbed the red marks around her foot gently. She frowned when it reminded her of the foot massages that Sasuke would give her.
"Why can't I just get over you?" she asked herself while gazing over at the blackened lake.
She sat in silence for a few moments, just mulling over her former lover. She'd let this drag on for far too long. It had been months of them having sex, Sasuke ignoring her, then saying whatever he needed to so he could get right back between her sheets. Sakura decided that she had to get over him. That sounded good but hadn't worked out the last time she tried and resolve died after a few days. Sakura admitted to herself this relationship bordered toxic. More heartache awaited her if she continued chasing after Sasuke.
"It's cool out for what you're wearing."
Sakura looked up and observed someone standing close by, hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans. A weary smile broke over her face at the sight of him. "Hey, Gaara."
His teal eyes moved over her, his face remaining expressionless as he sat down next to her. Gaara reached up to rake his fingers through his blood red hair, a habit Sakura noticed when they first met three years ago. His hair was unruly, and she guessed he did that to fix it at one point, but then it became comforting.
Gaara placed his pale hand in the pocket of his hoodie and looked at her closely. "Why are you upset?"
"I'm not upset," she lied.
His gaze moved to the gentle churn of the lake. "Then why are you about to cry?"
Sakura sucked in her cheeks and studied the grass that had become so interesting. "I'm not going to cry."
"So, you're admitting that you want to, but won't."
Sakura frowned and hooked a strand of pink hair behind her ear. Damn Gaara for being able to read her like a book. She had never been one who could hide her feelings anyway, but the red-headed brat called her out on it made nothing better.
"So, what?" she snapped, crossing her legs. "I don't care."
Gaara continued to watch her. "You do care."
Unable to keep up her miserably failing facade, Sakura sniffed, her throat closing with tears.
Gaara placed an arm around her shoulders. "Come."
Sakura leaned into his shoulder and cried. She hated that Sasuke held such power over her, but she couldn't help it. The young woman cared so much for a bastard and couldn't figure out how to disentangle herself from his grasp. After a few moments, Sakura calmed down. She let out a few shaky breaths to relax and turned swollen, puffy eyes to her friend while wiping her face.
"Thank you, Gaara."
A muffled "Hn" was his response before standing up. He pulled his hood up over his head. "You need to get home. A shower may be nice."
Sakura smiled, removed her other shoe so she could walk barefoot, and stood up next to him. "A shower sounds wonderful."
"It would help." Gaara gave her a serious gaze before saying, "You smell like lung cancer."
Sakura frowned and aimed a punch at his shoulder. The redhead dodged it and she glared at him. "Shut up."
She identified that sparkle in his eyes portrayed his amusement. Gaara rarely smiled, but over the years, a good mood showed through his teal orbs. She found a grin creeping over her own face as they walked along the sidewalk towards her apartment. It only took a few moments to arrive at her door and Sakura was thankful that her home resided on the first floor. There was no way she could hobble up the stairs with her mangled, aching feet.
Sakura turned to the male who walked her home, giving him a grateful smile. "Thank you, Gaara."
She watched his gaze rise from his converse sneakers, slowly moving up her body until their eyes locked. The shiver that moved up her spine as the young woman gazed into those mysterious orbs was unnerving. Was she going to rush onto her good friend because he had been nice to her when a certain Uchiha refused to? That wasn't fair to Gaara and shame filled her being.
"Well," she breathed, hoping he couldn't detect the pink working its way over her cheeks in the dim lighting. "Goodnight and thank you again."
She turned to unlock her door when Gaara spoke up.
"I'm coming to pick you up at three tomorrow," he spoke. "Dress casually."
She looked over her shoulder and raised a pink brow in confusion. "Huh?"
"I want to show you something," he said, reaching up to pull his hood up since the wind had blown it off. "Do you have something already planned?"
No, she had nothing going on tomorrow. Most people enjoyed plans on a Saturday, but not Sakura. Now she had a game plan. What did her friend want to show her? Thoughts were churning as she studied him intently. Messy hair fell into jeweled orbs, pointed nose, a softly curved jawline, then the unique tattoo on the side of his forehead. Because of the color, it matched his hair. Sakura once asked him why the hell he got a tattoo on his forehead. His responded it meant "love" and he had it for personal reasons. She didn't bother to push any further on the subject from how Gaara had looked away when she asked.
Her inquisitive eyes continued to study him. Gaara had handsome features and odd ones. His eyebrows never grew, and he often looked tired. Then again, Gaara often suffered from insomnia. The reason he had been out tonight so late was probably because he couldn't sleep. However, his features fit him. Her friend was attractive. His features were different, unique almost. Gaara turned to walk away.
"Good night," Sakura called after him.
The male turned to gaze at her. "Goodnight Sakura."
With that, he walked off, leaving Sakura to wonder about the following day's events.
Sakura's closet had many clothes yet nothing interesting to wear. It just made no logical sense. Everything she picked didn't match with... well she didn't know where they were going. Gaara had just said to dress casually. What did it mean to dress casually, damn it?! Sakura growled and stepped over the many clothes, shoes, books, and CDs strewn all over her room floor, still clad in her towel that matched her hair. She let it fall to the floor in a heap and moved over to her drawer. At least it wasn't hard to pick what type of undergarments to wear.
"Are you still trashing this room looking for something?" Sakura turned to see Tenten standing in the doorway smiling at her, remote control to the TV in her hand. Tenten leaned against the door frame and crossed her arms over her chest. "That's the cutest thing ever. He asks you on a date and you go batshit."
"It's not a date," Sakura argued, pushing her still wet locks out of her face when she bent down to rummage through a pile of clothes on her bed. "He said he wanted to show me something. There's a difference."
Her friend's light brown eyes sparkled with amusement. "Well, you sure are acting like it's a date. Why not just throw on some sweats and a T-shirt since it's not?"
"No!" Sakura exclaimed while picking up a tight-fitting blue tank top and examining it. "I still want to look nice."
Tenten chuckled while mussing with her long hair filtering down her shoulders. They were quiet for a few moments and Sakura decided on the tank top and a pair of jeans. today's forecast predicted high seventies, warm enough to go without a jacket.
"Hm?" she answered, slipping on her jeans and moving to her dresser's mirror to do her hair and make-up.
"How are you feeling?" Tenten asked gently, gazing at Sakura through the mirror's reflection. "About Sasuke I mean."
The young woman felt a stab of unhappiness at the mention of his name. Sakura thankfully hadn't thought about him all day. She had been too busy trying to prepare for her afternoon with Gaara. Her anger dissipated that morning, a great start to her day.
"I'm trying not to think about him," Sakura answered while pulling her hair up into a high ponytail. "I'd be lying if I said I don't still care for him. The feelings I have won't go away overnight."
The brunette nodded in agreement. "I never liked that Uchiha kid. Something didn't sit right with me." Tenten sat on a part of Sakura's bed that wasn't covered with clothes. "Gaara I do like."
"Why is that?" Sakura asked curiously. She picked up a tube of lip gloss and applied it while waiting for her roommate's response.
Tenten tapped her chin for a moment before saying, "He's real. Gaara doesn't put on an act for anyone. He's always himself so I know that the look he gives you is because he cares, not because he's just trying to get laid."
Sakura's eyebrows shot up. She whirled around to face her friend. "What?!"
Gaara having feelings for her? That sounded borderline impossible. Sure, they were close friends, but she had noticed nothing that might show he liked her. Sakura didn't know what type of girls he liked. She'd only seen him with one woman. Matsuri was opposite of Gaara in personality. Her bubbly persona and constant smile complemented Gaara's seriousness and quiet demeanor. They had dated for a few months but ended up splitting. Sakura didn't know why, but she noticed a change in her friend's behavior that wasn't for the better.
She remembered that he had gotten so angry that he got in a fight outside a store. Sakura had never seen Gaara so crazed. After he beat the other man unconscious, he screamed, "Are you afraid of me?! Do you think I'm a monster?! Well, I am!" while others struggled to restrain him.
He went to jail and once released acted normal. Gaara was back to his quiet self and when Sakura tried to ask what set him off, he became guarded so she let the subject next drop.
"Gaara cares about you, Sakura," Tenten said solemnly. "You're too blinded by Sasuke to realize it right now."
Was that true? There was no way. Sakura denied it without uttering a word.
Her cell phone ringing cut off her thought. She bolted for it, tripping over her heels from the night before she precariously left in the middle of the floor. Picking her Android up and taking it off its charger, she looked and saw Gaara's name. Sakura's heart sped up, and she took a deep breath to calm her nerves.
Since when do I have nerves for Gaara? Sakura asked herself before answering.
"I'm outside," came his smooth voice. "Are you ready?"
Sakura threw on some flip flops, grabbed her purse, and looked at Tenten for reassurance. She smiled and gave her a thumbs up. Sakura grinned and headed towards the door.
"Yeah, I'm walking outside in just a minute."
"All right," he answered before hanging up.
Sakura sucked in her cheeks. He always had that habit of hanging up without saying goodbye and he also never rang the doorbell. Any time they would hang out, he would always call her and wait outside rather than just knock. It was annoying, but Sakura didn't think much of it. She grabbed her sunglasses off the coffee table and walked to the front door, sliding them into place just as she opened it and the bright light filtered inside. The young woman stepped out into the warmth, eyes searching for Gaara. When she found him, she studied him from a different angle. He was handsome, and the sun brought out just how red his hair was.
Gaara's gaze wasn't focused on her; his teal orbs locked on the ground in another direction. Sakura studied his slender neck smooth skin. Gaara looked up at her, ran a hand through his locks, and walked over. Sakura wasn't sure if his face was red from the weather or because he was blushing. It wasn't warm enough for the sun to tint his cheeks that much.
"Why don't you ever ring the doorbell?" Sakura teased as they headed to his black BMW.
He was silent until they reached his vehicle. He dug into the pocket of his pants to pull out his keys.
"I don't like the way yours sounds," he answered as he unlocked the door and got in.
"What?" Sakura questioned, a smirk playing on her lips. "That doesn't even make any sense!"
Sakura saw that sparkle in his eyes when she sat down in the passenger seat once more. He found her confusion funny, how cute.
"So where are we going?" she questioned when they got on the road.
"Just wait," was his answer, the fingers of his free hand toying with the silver chain hanging from his skull belt.
Sakura growled in protest. She hated surprises, didn't everyone? It added on to her high-level curiosity. She hated the unknown.
She came out of her inner ramblings and gazed at her friend. "What's up?"
"I..." he swallowed, and she swore a hint of pink inched across his cheeks. "Never mind."
"What is it?" Sakura questioned, placing her hand on his. "You can tell me. I won't laugh at you, I promise."
He looked at her and Sakura grinned, telling him she was only joking. He rolled his eyes and remained quiet. Her smile faded, and she thought to ask if she had offended him, but then he said, "We're here."
Sakura gazed out of the tinted window and gazed at what looked like a skate park. There were giant ramps everywhere with spectators in all directions. Was this a competition? The two friends stepped out of the car and Sakura adjusted her sunglasses before moving to Gaara's side.
"Is this an X Games event?" she questioned as they walked towards the entrance.
"Yes," he answered once they were in line.
Sakura confusion crossed her features. Why would he take her to the X Games? She had gone with him before to smaller events frequently because Gaara liked to skateboard and bike. Sakura rooted for him when he competed. So why bring her to something she had been to before albeit a larger version? Her mind churned wondering Gaara's plan. Perhaps he wanted to experience something he enjoyed. They paid for their tickets and because the mass of people was so big, Sakura looped her arm in Gaara's to make sure they stayed together. He glanced at her and gave her a soft look before leading them to where they would be sitting. Sakura saw an alcohol stand and insisted on getting something to drink. Once a Budweiser was in her hand, she said, "All right, I'm all set."
"You know you don't need that," Gaara chided, running his free and through his hair and pulling is olive green muscle shirt further over his pants.
"Yes, I do," Sakura insisted with a smile. "Come on, let's hurry and sit."
After weaving their way through the crowd, the two found their seats. Sakura liked where they were at. They sat in the center bleachers high enough for a good view without binoculars. Sakura sat down and crossed her smooth legs, emerald eyes scanning the crowd while sipping her beer. She still contemplated Gaara's scheme, but he was unpredictable. It was hard to guess what he was thinking, but that didn't stop the inquisitive woman from trying.
"When are you going to tell me why you brought me here?" Sakura asked, giving up on trying to guess. "Wait, how much did you pay for these tickets?"
"Hn," he mumbled, reaching up to rake his fingers through his hair. "You're so impatient. You will see in a moment." He ignored her second question.
"Ugh, you suck," Sakura responded, leaning her head against Gaara's shoulder.
She felt him tense for a moment, but he soon relaxed and placed his head against hers. Sakura's heart sped up again. Did Gaara actually like her? Tenten's words rang in her ears. She paused and considered a romantic relationship with Gaara. They clicked because of how different their personalities were. Sakura was outgoing while Gaara was more reclusive. Still, Gaara had good qualities: he was honest without being hurtful, caring without being overbearing. He had the right amount of every quality Sakura liked, but the one she admired most was how non-judgmental he was. Anyone else would think she was stupid for chasing so hard after Sasuke, but Gaara said nothing to make her feel bad about herself.
Soon the show began and Sakura was on the edge of her seat like she always was at these types of events. The tricks that these guys accomplished were so amazing. It must have taken lots of pain and broken bones to perfect their techniques.
"Wow, did you see that?!" Sakura exclaimed, beryl eyes flashing with excitement when one of the BMX bikers performed a backflip.
Her gaze stayed locked on him and he went up the high ramp to perform another trick. Unfortunately, on the landing, he came down wrong and fell, skidding the rest of the way down the ramp.
"Oh man," Sakura whispered, fingers clenched in her lap while the crowd echoed their concern. "I hope he's okay."
Gaara sat up straight. "Pay attention."
The rosette gave him a strange look. "To what? Him almost breaking his leg?"
Her friend pointed at the man and said, "Watch him closely."
Sakura returned her eyes to the performer and watched him struggle to get up. It was clear he was in a lot of pain, but he got to his feet with the help of assistants. The crowd went wild as he raised a fist in the air to indicate he was okay.
Gaara slid closer and flicked his gaze from Sakura to the biker. "Despite his injury and loss of the tournament, he still remained optimistic."
"Yeah?" Sakura answered, pushing her sunglasses up on the top of her head.
"What did he do?"
"He brushed it off," Sakura answered. "Now he's getting his bike... is he about to ride again?"
"He will." Gaara took her drink and swallowed a few sips before continuing. "You must do the same, Sakura."
I need to fall and get up? Sakura questioned in her mind. I don't... oh...
Sakura understood now. This example mirrored her recent issue with Sasuke. Gaara showed her through this athlete a simple lesson: although Sasuke hurt her, she needed to dust herself off and try again. It was such a clear, obvious, and corny lesson. Gaara's perspective made sense. Tenten and Lee surely reflected his thought process. Sakura missed it because of her blind admiration for Sasuke.
A smile broke over her soft features. "Couldn't you have just told me that instead?"
"I could have."
Sakura laughed and once it subsided, their gazes locked. Maybe something could be between them if she allowed herself to move away from Sasuke. Gaara's gesture, although tedious, exhibited a thoughtfulness and a genuine interest in her. Her friend did care a lot about her and this whole time she had been blind to it. Deciding to take the initiative, Sakura slowly entwined their hands and relief washed over her when he closed his fingers around hers. It only took a fleeting moment for their lips to meet. Sakura marveled at how soft they were. She ran her fingers through his silky hair and pulled back.
"So, you do like me," Sakura accused playfully.
Gaara gave her a half smile, a gesture that shocked Sakura. She wanted to ensure he smiled more often. It looked good on him.
She laughed and linked her fingers through his. Maybe Gaara could fill in the gap Sasuke made. It was worth a shot and like the old saying goes: you don't know until you try. She deserved happiness, and she was sure this man could give her that.
"Well, well, look who I've found. It's Pinkie."
Sakura froze. She recognized Suigetsu's cocky voice anywhere and when she turned around, she saw the familiar ivory locks and piercing violet irises. He smiled his shark-like grin at her, crossing his arms over his chest.
"What are you doing here, Suigetsu?" Sakura questioned, already knowing if he was at the event, Sasuke was close by.
The twenty-four-year-old spread his arms wide. "I came to see the games obviously." His gaze dropped to Gaara, and he frowned. "You forgot I am next in line to be your lover. I thought we had something special."
"Leave her alone Suigetsu."
The woman smiled at the guy who walked up next to Suigetsu. "Hi, Juugo."
The orange-haired man returned it and told his friend they needed to go back to their seats. Suigetsu blew her a kiss and Sakura thought she heard Gaara growl under his breath as they left. Sakura took a moment to glance around for Sasuke and didn't see him, something she was semi-glad of. Just then, her phone vibrated. Sakura unlocked her phone and saw Sasuke's name… well, it said "Asshole". Now Sasuke wanted to speak to her? Her pulse thundered as she opened it.
Hang out with me tonight.
It wasn't a question. Such an entitled text showing his arrogance concerning the hold he possessed over her. Sakura frowned sourly and closed her phone. She knew Sasuke saw her with Gaara and didn't like it. Sasuke might have been pushing her away, but that didn't mean he didn't like her chasing him; that was something that man enjoyed. Well, Sakura would not keep feeding his already bloated ego. She wanted time with Gaara and move beyond friendship.
"Sakura," Gaara called when she laid her head in the crook of his neck.
He swallowed and turned his full attention to the skateboarder who was doing his tricks and said, "Do you believe you'll find happiness with me?"
Sakura was silent for a moment, the warm breeze filtering her shoulder-length hair around her face. She placed her hand on his lap and said, "I don't know until I try."