"Sakura..." he croaked, trying to struggle against the ropes that bound him to the chair. Damn her for making him drink that green tea. The last thing he saw was her smirking face before he fell face first onto the table. And now, several hours later, he woke up to find his chakra depleted and himself tied tightly to a chair.


He winced as the ropes burned his wrists and sighed in frustration. Damn that woman! She had been following him as soon as he came back from his mission and he was too tired to evade like what he's been doing for the past week and a half.

It was no secret that Sakura had started to…seek out his company. She had been very vocal when she dragged him across Konoha to her house, and rumours had spread like wildfire. He was too lazy to correct their assumptions, and she was currently living under a rock, what with working long hours in the hospital and training with the Hokage. Otherwise, he knew all the gossip-mongers would be admitted to the hospital by now.

"Sakura..." he whined, tired from struggling and finally slouching in his seat. She hummed, half-listening to his complaints as she placed a piece on the shogi board. She frowned and shook her head, quickly picking it back up and moving it elsewhere. "Sakura, let me go. I'm tired-"

"You just slept for five hours, Nara," she suddenly growled, turning to him with narrowed eyes. He couldn't help but gulp and check his chakra. Still depleted.


"Look, as much as I love our little meetings," he said, glad that the rasp of his voice was slightly gone. "I'm exhausted. I just came back from a mentally taxing recon mission. At least let me get a decent sleep in my bed," he added quickly when she opened her mouth to retort, "instead of drugging me and letting me develop a knot on my neck." He gave her a look and she pouted, annoyed.

"You were gone for a week!" she said, frustrated. "And no one wanted to play shogi with me at all. I even tried asking your dad for a game but," she made a face, "he only laughed and said he can't satisfy my needs." Shikamaru blanched at the obvious insinuation. He'll have to talk to his dad later and clear everything up. If this was how bad his father acted after hearing the rumours, he shuddered to think about his mother's reaction. "Can you believe that? And then, of course, when I finally persuaded Ten-Ten to play with me, the game didn't even last three minutes!" She growled and placed more pieces back on the board, trying to recreate their last game. "And Neji's still on that mission with Shino and-"

"Alright, alright," he finally conceded, tired of her ranting. Honestly, she was worse than Ino- at least with Ino, he could tune out, but every word that Sakura seemed to say refused to be ignored and he always ended up listening.

He wasn't stupid; he knew he was attracted to her. Still, every time he found himself in situations like this (and these kinds of situation happen more often than he'd like to admit) he wonders what his brain was thinking, falling for such a volatile kunoichi. He was brought out of his stupor when he felt her hands on the nape of his neck, quietly massaging him. He immediately stiffened, unused to her touch.

Unlike what most of Konoha liked to believe, their little rendez-vous were platonic- she sought out his company for shogi, nothing more. He never minded, of course, he could always use a shogi partner, but the more he spent time with her, the more he learned about her- like the way she would twirl a shogi piece between her fingers when she's thinking of her next move, or how she'll press the dango to her lips before taking a bite – and he found that he wanted to learn more. He wanted to see what other little quirks she had, and he wanted to hear her thoughts, her opinions, her beliefs… He found he wanted to immerse himself in her completely, to see her every day and-

And Kami, he was starting to sound like a stalker.

He couldn't help the groan that passed from his lips as she worked on the crick in his neck- sleeping tied to a chair did that – and he turned his head to look at her.

"Untie me," he said, staring deep into her eyes. He surprised himself by his words and the promise they carried and he looked away, angry that he would let so much of his emotions escape. He had to rein himself in; he had to push his infatuation for her aside. He knew who she wanted, and it certainly wasn't him. Besides, if anything were to happen, he knew that he would just be Sasuke's replacement. The thought was sobering.

"Shikamaru," Sakura said quietly after a moment. "What do you think of me?" He was suddenly aware of her hands still on the nape of his neck and he wondered when he let himself be so vulnerable. She could snap his neck at his answer, if she wanted. He's never been more scared of a question in his life.

Should he tell the truth? Or keep lying to her?

He closed his eyes and envisioned the different outcomes- a punch in the face was featured in about half of them and he couldn't help but smile. Well, if that was the case…

"I like you," he said bluntly, quickly, like taking off a plaster. "I've liked you since you won your first game with me." He could still remember the look of shock on her face when she realised that she could beat him, and he watched her grin and pump her fist in the air and scream in glee. Kami, she had looked so beautiful.

Argh. The troublesome woman was making him as sappy as his old man.

The hands on his neck stilled and he sighed, waiting for her fist to come pummelling down on his head. She stepped away, her warmth leaving him and he turned, watching her pensively. She bit her lip and wrung her hands nervously. She caught his gaze and he realised they were too bright, her tears kept at bay through sheer will.

"I think I might like you too," she whispered, giving him a sad smile. Her lips trembled. "And I don't know exactly when, but I think it was when you told me you wouldn't go easy just because I'm a girl and-" her hands flew to her face to wipe the tears that started to run, "-and you're always so nice to me, and I know you'll never leave like-like Sasuke-kun but," she choked out a sob, "but I like him too, and I'm confused, Shikamaru, I'm really confused." He squeezed his eyes shut at her words.

"Untie me, Sakura," he said quietly. He felt the ropes loosen around his frame, her shaking hands knocking accidentally on his shoulders. He stood up; his lips so close to hers that he could feel her breath on his cheeks. He reached out a hand and slowly wiped away her tears. Her gaze never left his.

Falling for him was killing her. He could see that now. Even though Uchiha wasn't here, she was still his. But she liked him too, hadn't she said that? So, surely he could be satisfied with that. He squeezed his eyes shut. Who was he kidding- now that he knew he had a chance, he could either grab the opportunity or-

He closed his eyes, inhaling her scent of vanilla before giving her a hesitant peck on the cheeks, his lips lingering for as long as he dared. He stepped back and gave her a gaze that lingered just as much, before placing his hands back in his pockets to hide his clenched fists. He walked away and didn't look back, not even when he heard her sobs.

He never should have fallen for her.

an. I knew I can't write happy things. Damn. I liked this prompt way too much, unfortunately. I actually had millions of ideas for this (just as angsty, I can assure you) and I'm really proud of actually producing a one-shot and not some collection of drabbles (I tend to do that). Anyway, I would actually love feedback on this- especially since my essay-writing skills are depressing me and exams are approaching way too fast for my liking. If anyone is really good at writing essays, then mail me or something, because I'd love some advice. Cheers!

ps. This is set during the time-skip (ooh, the things that happen in the time-skip!) No, but seriously. I keep thinking if I set them during the time-skip, then I can pretend that it actually happened. Is that just me or-?

Anyway, thanks for reading! Have a cookie for reading this! Tell me what you think :D