"How long does this last?" said Sasuke, staring down at the palm of his hand. The two sat on either side of Kakashi's small kitchen table. The apartment was dark, except for the lights on in the kitchen. Sasuke again attempted to move his fingers, but to no avail.

"A few hours, or days," said Hinata, seeming vaguely pleased with herself. "It varies from person to person."

"How did you do it?" he wanted to know.

She reached out and clasped his hand in her smaller ones, her byakugan activating so she could scrutinize his chakra flow. "I blocked your tenketsu point right here." With her pointer finger she touched a spot at the base of his thumb. It briefly burned, then Sasuke felt a rush of warmth run through his fingers. "Better?" she said.

Sasuke stretched his fingers, this time with success. "Yes," he said.

Hinata smiled shyly. Her eyes widened as Sasuke clasped her hand. She quickly broke away. "So w-what do you w-want to eat?" she said, standing and turning away to hide her blush. She approached the fridge and began to blindly rummage around inside.

"It doesn't matter," said Sasuke. He wasn't feeling that hungry anymore.

The innards of Kakashi's refrigerator consisted of a strange assortment of...toppings. There was chocolate syrup, whipped cream, butter sauce, strawberries, pink jelly, purple sprinkles, crushed white chocolate, and so on. Blushing hotly, Hinata quickly shut it. She took a few deep breaths, and instead rummaged in the freezer. To her immense relief, there was-

"Ice cream," said Hinata, breathing. She pulled a tub of it out from Kakashi's freezer, then found some cones – yes, cones! – in a nearby cupboard. Sweating profusely, she wondered if her imagination wasn't getting a little carried away as of late. As she made herself a cone, she noticed that Sasuke was eying her, and her blush returned. "It was a-all Kakashi had in the fridge," she said awkwardly. "D-do you want-?"


"Oh." Hinata's face fell, but she quickly forgot her dismay and remembered her ice cream. She tasted it in contentment, but paused at noticing that Sasuke was still staring at her. "I s-should l-leave," she stammered badly.

"...Un," said Sasuke, whose mind had wandered.

He had thought back to his and Hinata's training sessions – how each time they sparred, something wrong seemed to happen. How during the first, they had actually kissed, and the second, he had unintentionally groped her.

"I'll show you out," he said.

As he watched Hinata lick her cone, he sort of wanted something to go wrong right then.

Hinata lowered it, as though she was guilty of something. "You don't have to!" she said. The apartment was tiny, after all, but Sasuke was already on his feet. Together they walked to the dark living room in silence.

It was the middle of the night. He should have offered to walk her home, but walking her home would be far more intimate than touching, or kissing, or anything they had done thus far. Besides, she wasn't his – girlfriend, or anything like that. He had no desire for her to be. He supposed he just didn't mind when she was around.

Sasuke opened the door. "Your basket," he said, before he thought. Why was he stalling her? He walked off to find the item in question.

"Oh..." said Hinata, lingering by the open door. She should have had the wisdom to leave, but she stalled as well.

Sasuke walked into his bedroom and lifted Hinata's basket from the nightstand. He paused as he regarded it before putting it back down. He wasn't sure what prompted the sudden stubbornness. Maybe he was frustrated that Hinata was leaving. Maybe he wanted her to get it herself. Was he so sexually depraved that he was picking fights now? Hadn't he already established that Hinata wasn't the girl to fool around with, that he should have shirked her company and not encouraged it.

There was something about her that got to him, infected him, affected him in a way that unnerved him to no end.

There was a knock on his door, and Sasuke turned and opened it. He met her white eyes, and immediately they were kissing. He barely knew how to contrive a kiss, but was suddenly kissing her in the dirtiest of dirty ways. He pushed her into the wall, and slid his hands along her hips, curvaceous hips that had been hidden in her baggy clothes, up her slim, perfect, waist, ignoring as she shivered. The cone dropped – strawberry – his least-favorite flavor. But it didn't taste bad from Hinata's lips.

Hinata's mind was spinning. Was this real? Was she really kissing Sasuke again? Uchiha Sasuke, who she barely knew? Sasuke, who regarded her with so much contempt, Sasuke who fought her with so much hostility? Missing nin Uchiha Sasuke, who had spent half his life headlining the bingo book? Sasuke, who was the best friend of the love of her life. None of it was right. It should have been- "Naruto."

It was weakly stated, but everything came to a halt. Why couldn't Naruto make her feel like this? Why couldn't Naruto kiss her in such a way? Her head swimming and cheeks burning, she and Sasuke separated, breathless, staring at one another.

Seeing the traces of pain in his expression, her eyes filled with tears. I'm sorry, Hinata thought, covering her face with sleeve.

I'm so sorry

She hurried off, not even noticing Kakashi, who she pushed past in the door frame.

Kakashi hadn't made a wise-crack about him and the heiress for the rest of the week, Sasuke noticed.

He glared down at his clenched fists.

It seemed like everyone knew.

Everyone knew about his attempts upon Hinata's lips, her body, her heart-

Her body, Sasuke quickly reminded himself. Only her body. Because, Sasuke knew, he had no interest in that kind of stuff, stuff that seemed inherent to Hinata's soft nature, her gentle features, her day-dreamy dispositions, and her pathological beauty... He mused though, that it would have been nice to have her for more than a night, then he caught himself.


What was wrong with him?

He should have been relieved. He was rid of her. Sasuke absently glared at the two people standing before him.

"Sasuke, what's with these rumors I'm hearing about you and Hinata-chan?" complained Naruto, squinting queerly and placing his hands on his hips.

Sasuke had spent the day glaring death at the blonde, who seemed aware of the looks, for he had spent his own day tip-toeing around him. But alas, he seemed to have built up some nerve.

"Nothing," muttered Sasuke. It was strikingly true.

Naruto and Sakura had stopped by to "visit" him, or rather, check his closet for dead bodies. Upon seeing the pink-haired kunoichi up-close, Sasuke had to admit he was impressed. Not only did Sakura have the strength to tear Kakashi's front door off its hinges (which she had, being that Sasuke hadn't bothered answering), but had filled out nicely. She wasn't like Hinata, but-

Again Sasuke caught himself. His eye twitched oddly like he was malfunctioning.

Naruto eyed him. "You okay teme?"

...something about tangerines...


His first attempt on Hinata had been fallacious, the second, accidental, and the third...authentic. Shockingly authentic. For the first time in his life he had gone after a girl, which was something he just...didn't...do. Sasuke lifted his glass, so to look busy as he continued to stare off. He took a gulp. Forced the water down his dry throat.

Sakura and Naruto exchanged a look, before Sakura wandered off, so to give Naruto and Sasuke some time alone together. She muttered something about finding Kakashi's notorious hidden cameras. Naruto took a seat on the other side of the couch, leaning on the arm. "Seriously Sasuke, these stories-"

By then, the Uchiha was getting annoyed. "They're just rumors," he stated. "Remember when everyone thought we were together-"

When Naruto and Sasuke noticed Sakura peeking at them through the slightly-open kitchen door, they stared blankly at her until she awkwardly shuffled away.

Naruto scratched his cheek. "Oh yeah..." That brought back a few strange memories.

"Rumors," repeated Sasuke.

Naruto furrowed his brows. "But you and Hinata-chan..." Always with the chan. "What are you doing together?"

Kissing, training, more kissing...rejection. "She's babysitting me, remember?"

A cheeky grin crossed the blonde's face. "Oh right. So I guess all that stuff about you two dating is just made up..." As he said this, he searched Sasuke's face for any hint of reaction, but was rewarded with only another odd twitch. Maybe it was just speculation after all.

"Aa," said Sasuke. Why was Naruto so interested anyway? He went back to glaring at him, his aura filling with killing intent. Naruto noticed, and paled.

"Wow, look at the time," he said, abruptly standing and looking everywhere but into Sasuke's cold eyes. "We should head out – Sakura?" Naruto called.

The pink-haired girl in question poked her head back into the room. "Oh..." She glanced at Sasuke and frowned. "I think I'll stick around for a little while," she said, walking in. She gave Naruto a smile, encouraging him to go without her.

Sasuke didn't care either way. He would, at least, be able to stand Sakura, who seemed to have grown less annoying over the past five years.

"A-alright," said Naruto, seeming uneasy by Sakura's suggestion. He watched the two for a moment, before lightly shaking himself and heading for the door. Was that a glint of jealousy in his eyes?

Sasuke observed. So after all this time, the idiot still had a crush on Sakura. Meanwhile, Hinata was in love with him.

Greedy fucker...

"What's wrong Sasuke?" Sakura's words penetrated his thoughts. He turned to notice that the kunoichi had taken the seat beside him.

What was wrong?

A lot of things.

Nothing he was keen to deliberate about any further, because the more he did, the more he realized...


His thoughts continued to be dominated by Hinata, but as he looked into Sakura's worried eyes, he suddenly noticed that she still had feelings for him. She slowly leaned over, meeting his lips with hers. Sasuke's eyelids sunk.

What difference did it make, really? Girl were girls. Sex was sex. They were two consenting adults. Sakura was willing to indulge him in ways Hinata was not. As they lightly kissed, Sakura climbed upon him, straddling his lap and grasping his shirt. What difference did it make which girl relieved his tension?

Sakura wasn't Hinata. That was the difference. He was stunned by this realization. That's when Sakura, too, seemed to find that something was wrong.

"I can't," she said, pulling back. Still clutching his shirt, she stared at him. "Everything's different now."

He hated to admit that she was right.

"I'm having you take a mission with Uzumaki Naruto, Haruno Sakura, and Hyuuga Hinata."

The Hokage had listed the three people in Konoha he wanted to avoid.

"I chose them because they are my most trusted chuu-"

"Wait-" Sasuke interrupted Tsunade. "The Hyuuga?" Hinata, after all, had never even worked with him in the past.

The Hokage raised an eyebrow. "As I've been led to understand, the two of you work well together." There was a mischievous glint in her eye and quirk to lips. Maybe she had heard the rumors as well. If only she knew it was all but the contrary.

A muscle clenched at the end of Sasuke's jaw. "Why are you sending me off on a mission already? Are you really so trusting?"

Tsunade smiled sweetly. "I want you to get accustomed to Konoha life again, and to fighting on this village's behalf. I'd like to see you move up in the ranks rather than letting your strength, and your sharingan go to waste." He smile widened. "Besides, it's merely a B-class mission, and I trust your teammates to keep you in check."

Sasuke scowled as he heard the door open behind him. He glanced over his shoulder to see the three people in question enter the room. Naruto, Sakura, and Hinata stood in line with Sasuke before the Hokage's desk. Sasuke noted that they all avoided his eyes.

"Hokage-sama," said Sakura.

As Naruto obliviously grinned and rolled his shoulders, Sakura was looking attentively at Tsunade. Hinata, meanwhile, was staring at her feet.

Even in her efforts of discretion, her presence was maddening.

"Your mission will be to deliver this package to the Lord of the Fire County. This delivery is of the utmost importance, and is likely to be targeted by thieves and enemy ninja. It should take you half a day to get there, and the same time to return. I expect you back by tomorrow night." She motioned for Sakura to approach before handing her a square brown parcel.

Sasuke sighed. It seemed that the mission would be an easy one.

...Although, it gave him little time to escape. Rejoin Orochimaru. Revive Hebi. Forge new plans to destroy the shinobi world, and acquire vengeance once and for all!

...though these seemed drastic measures to quell the pain of rejection...

Sasuke stared at Tsunade, ignoring her as she continued to prattle on. What did Konoha have to offer him anyway?

The group spent the rest of the day traveling in silence, aside from Naruto and Sakura's light conversation. With the byakugan activated, Hinata walked up front, leading the way toward the residence of Fire Lord Ozai. Behind her followed Naruto and Sakura, side by side. This left Sasuke in the back, walking mutely.

Hinata had thrown a few glances to the pair behind her, but never Sasuke. She, in fact, took strict measures to avoid any contact with him. To her intrigue, he returned the favor.

This tactic didn't work with her thoughts, however. Hinata frowned that evening as she stared up at the tapering ceiling of the tent they all shared.

Naruto had insisted upon sleeping near the tent's exit for easy access to the "bathroom," while Sakura had practically begged to sleep beside the other kunoichi, as if to avoid Sasuke for some reason. This left Sasuke opposite Naruto, farthest from the opening of the tent, and Hinata beside him, a mere foot of space between them.

The Hyuuga shifted uneasily upon her mat, throwing Uchiha yet another glance.

Sasuke slept with his body turned away from everyone else, buried in sheets, and curled up on his side, his messy hair the only indication that he wasn't just a heap of blankets.

It was odd. Hinata had never imagined him to be the type to sleep in such a position. She had simply supposed that Sasuke would sleep over the comforter, flat on his back, with his arms crossed over his chest - like some undead creature from the ghost stories Kiba told over campfire. In fact, sometimes Kiba implanted the Uchiha in said stories, just for the sake of convenience.

And in truth, he could have been dead at that moment. He was completely still, alarmingly silent. There was no indication that he was even breathing.

Hinata frowned to herself. Sasuke wasn't dead. No, that was ridiculous! She turned away from him again.

She had spent her day not knowing how to act or feel around him. Though she directed her thoughts as far from him as she could, he seeped in like ink, invading her mind, encompassing her heart. She tried to think of Naruto, but his brightness was also shrouded, failing to occupy her for very long.

It was because Sasuke was new. Different. He was an enigma. That was all. It would pass.

Her heart pounded.

Hinata stared at the two heaps that were Naruto and Sakura. Naruto was Sasuke's polar opposite, even in unconsciousness. He took to snoring loudly, and drooling visibly. Hinata quietly giggled at his spread-eagle form, one of his legs draped across Sakura, and the other disappearing through the tent flaps, as though to temp a hungry bear.

Hinata's giggles faded.

Was it really Naruto who she loved? She had fantasized about being with him for years, for so long, in fact, she may have lost perspective of what was real and what was fantasy. Everything about him appealed to her. He represented everything she was not. He was good for her, if nothing else.

But Sasuke was...

The boy her thoughts kept drifting back to. He was different. Her enigma. He made her heart race in ways Naruto did not.

He was reckless, and odd, dangerous, and a little insane. Yet he carried himself so impassively. Nothing about him made any sense at all! Hinata turned again to gaze at the boy in question. He was sleeping soundly. He couldn't have cared less.

Was it...him?

Closing her eyes, Hinata decided to sleep on these thoughts.

Sasuke wouldn't let her.

He was in her mind, and refused to leave. His face, not Naruto's, occupied every aspect of her thoughts. His voice, and his smirk, his deadpan expression, his onyx eyes – they swam in and out of her focus.

She had to say something. She had to tell him the things she felt, and the fact that it wasn't Naruto. And she had to do it now! And so Hinata sat up. "Sa-Sasuke-kun."

Her quavering voice was just above a whisper, but it was all that her anxiety would permit. Hinata's body trembled and her heart raced, all while she stared at the visible tuft of Sasuke's black hair.

He didn't move.

He was...sleeping.

Hinata recoiled. She ducked onto her mat and buried herself under her blanket, all her courage expended by then. The rest had been used up the two times she had kissed him. She squeezed her eyes shut and willed for sanity to resume and her strange feelings to end.

For five long years she had been unable to tell Naruto her true feelings, and nothing had changed. She and Sasuke would continue to ignore each other. They would both pretend nothing had happened. Soon it wouldn't hurt so much, because it was over.

"Un." The tired voice broke through her thoughts.

Hinata opened her eyes and peeked out from her comforter to see that Sasuke was up, and peering down at her.

"What is it?" he muttered.