Don't own anything.

Hey everyone! Mako-hero back again with yet another romance. I can't seem to stop myself anymore. Oh well, I hope you enjoy this one!

She shouldn't have been out late. It was just asking for trouble.

But she just had a little bit more studying to get done before her final in applied chakra conduction and its not like the route home from the library was all that dangerous. It was all paved road and well away from any bars or clubs that might have some lingering drunks around who like to start trouble because of the liquid courage they took in mass.

Overall, Konoha is an extremely safe town. Small ninja patrols usually saw to that.

However, that doesn't mean there aren't crimes. She had personally heard enough violence to fill a rap sheet a mile long. Just because ninja roamed around to protect the town didn't mean people didn't like to get into trouble.

Sakura should have realized that. Her seemingly short and simple walk home would prove to be a harsh reminder of the dark nature that can manifest in the back of people's minds as soon as the sun goes down.

Once night hits and the moon rises, normal people can become animals.

Her quiet walk was going as well as it could. The day was a warm one so the cool night breeze was invited after sweating most of the day away. To top it off, the moon looked especially bright as it shone over the town like a second sun-it left her feeling relaxed and almost made her wish she hadn't spent the whole day studying and instead was on a romantic date with Sasuke-possibly over a candle lit dinner on a veranda somewhere.

She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't pay too much attention to her surroundings. Walking past yet another dark alleyway didn't really mean much to her-that is until a hand caught her wrist and pulled her in to the inky black cover of the side road. Before she could scream, a crusty filth covered hand slapped over her mouth. She could taste the remnants of liquor and sweat that layered over it like a cloth as it firmly kept her from opening her jaw.

"Stay quiet little girl and you won't get hurt." A deep malicious voice placed just behind the pinkette's ear spoke. She could smell the booze on his breath. It was intensely nauseating to the point where she thought she might throw up just from the smell alone.

The man dragged her deeper into the alley, careful not to let his hand off of her mouth unless he wanted her to scream. He brought her to a place farther back that had no windows to plead to and no doors to escape with. The sicko made sure not to let his hand go until he had her hair firmly gasped between his fingers.

She finally was able to see what he looked like. He was at least six foot three, but he was gangly and had more bone than muscle. The small light from the road mixed with the brightness of the moon let her see a sheen of sweat covering his face that looked oily and sticky to the touch and his tattered clothes were covered with brown stains of unknown garbage. The coat he wore looked like, at one point, it had been very nice but after a few mishaps had become ripped at the seems and covered in dirt-possibly from falling in his own drunken stupor during the night.

But the fact was, he was wearing a suit. Albeit an unkempt one, but a suit nonetheless. Earlier that day it was probably in pristine condition. Earlier that day this man was most likely at work-probably as some middle man at a business he didn't even like-and didn't intend to go out later that night to pull a small defenseless girl into an alleyway to do whatever he pleased with. But something happened, maybe he lost his job... maybe he just had a bad day... but when night rolled around and the moon rose he decided to release the pent up frustration and anger he kept from his coworkers... or his family.

"What do you want with me?" She couldn't stop the tears from pouring down her face, but he seemed to enjoy it.

"You and I are going to have a little fun." He smiled and showed her his tobacco stained teeth.

Sakura's eyes went wide with fear and realization of his cruel intentions. She kicked and screamed as loud as she could, but the dirty man had a hold on her that she couldn't shake and his hand was so firmly tangled in her pink hair that it was nearly knotted in.

That's when he began to tug at her clothes.

"No! NO! Somebody help me!" She screamed and tried to bat his hand away, but soon enough he caught the seam of her shirt and began to lift it. With all of her might she tried to hold her red shirt down below her biker shorts, but he was just too strong. She was losing ground while he cackled out the nauseating smell of liquor and tobacco in her face.

In the midst of her struggle she barely heard the crunching noise.

It was a light and faint 'crunch' but she knew she heard it because, immediately after, his hand stopped trying to remove her clothes and his body fell to the ground like a bag of lead.

Sakura untangled his hand from her hair and jumped away from the body just to land painfully on her butt. She noticed a new person was standing over the perverts body so she scooted away in fear of what they might be planning. People like this sometimes had accomplices.

"It's okay." The newcomer said. His voice was much lighter and almost familiar to her.

"Who are you?"

He extended his hand and she stared at it, unwilling to trust him.

Sakura looked over at the body of the man who attempted to molest her and saw a thick metal object sticking out of his head. Even in the darkness she could see the blood covering the wall of the building that made up the alley.

"You... you killed him?!"

"It was better than the alternative."

Again he reached out his hand to help her up.

"I won't hurt you."

With nothing else to lose and no reason not to, she took his hand. Sakura stood up and noticed that the person who saved her was the same height as her. Either he was particularly short or, judging by how light his voice is, he's just a boy. He couldn't be much older than she was.

"I'll take you home." The voice calmly drifted out from a hood that covered his face and led to a cloak that covered his body. It was impossible to see his face under the moonlight.

He took her hand and she silently followed him out of the darkness and back onto the main road. Sakura didn't really notice that he had taken the lead in bringing her back home because she was caught up in the amount of blood covering her clothes. It was so thick her shirt would squelch when she touched it and she could feel its wetness seeping through to her skin. Enough of it had built up that red streaks of crimson life flowed down her arms from her sleeves, but she was too stunned to care at the moment.

The memories of what happened and the idea of 'what almost was' rolled around in her skull like a tsunami. If it wasn't for this person holding her hand and calmly bringing her back home then she may have been... she didn't want to think about it.

"We're here." The mysterious boy said as he patted the small of her back and pushed her towards the door of her house.

Sakura spun and tried to reach for him, but he was already too far to grab. "Who are you?"

The boy turned around, his face shielded by the shadow of his hood. "I'm just a friend." He simply stated. "Oh. And please don't go out after dark anymore. It's dangerous."

With those parting words, he faded into the shadows of the night leaving an emotionally/mentally/physically stunned Sakura behind.

XXXX

(Genin classroom)

"SAKURA-CHAAAAAAAAN!"

The pinkette buried her face into her hands. "What do you want Baka?"

Naruto reached into his bright orange jacket and pulled out two paper stubs. "Check it out! The old man at the ramen stand gave me these and said I can bring anyone I want for a free bowl!"

Sakura lifted her head slowly. "I'm not going to go with you."

"But... but... but... Sakura-chaaaaan!" He whined. "Please!"

"No." She said sternly. "I'm not in the mood today Naruto. Just go away."

"I swear it'll be fun!"

"No!"

"Just give me a chance!"

Sakura slammed her fists into her desk and the room of noisy students went quiet. "I said no! What the hell is wrong with you?! Take a hint! I don't like you. I've never liked you. And I won't ever like you! So leave me alone!"

Naruto remained quiet for a moment as Sakura's venom tipped words sunk in. Even the class of people who generally didn't like the blonde boy felt bad for him now.

"I'm... I'm sorry Sakura-chan. I just wanted to cheer you up." He gave a small defeated smile. "You just looked really sad today. Ya know?"

Sakura sighed and rubbed her head. It had only been two weeks since the attack so the fresh wounds from that night were still festering in her mind. The whole thing seemed like a nightmare, but she had the blood drenched clothes to prove that it really was real. After what happened she just couldn't help that she was on edge. It's not every day a girl gets sexually assaulted and then witnesses a death.

"It doesn't have to be a date Sakura-chan." The blonde boy smiled a little brighter. "I'm just a friend."

Sakura froze. The boy from the night before said that same thing.

'I'm just a friend.'

She slowly turned towards Naruto. He was just grinning like a madman, not realizing that she was agonizing over what he just said. Sakura stood up abruptly and measured Naruto's height compared to hers with her hand. 'He's the right size.'

Naruto just sat there with a confused smile on his face.

"Ano... uh... Sakura-chan?"

"I'll have ramen with you."

Naruto's blue eyes flashed bright. "Really?!"

"Yes, but just this one time. And not as a date!"

"Whatever. I'll take it!" He chirped.

"And not as friends either. I just happen to want ramen."

Naruto slumped and smiled awkwardly. "Eh... Sakura-chan... so mean."

A meal with Naruto was never something she thought she would be doing. Hate may be a strong word for how she felt about him, but a very powerful dislike had to be close. Not only was he annoying, but his constant push for dates made her want to strangle him with his tacky orange jumpsuit. Today, however, something was different. Sure he was just as annoying as usual, but something was... off about him.

She was pretty sure he couldn't be the one who saved her. The Naruto she knew would certainly have used the situation as an excuse for a date. The hyper blonde would have told her who he was and then probably tried to wrap her up in a hug or something.

No.

The person from that night was mysterious; a trait Naruto couldn't produce in his best of days. The boy that saved her was soft spoken and smooth while Naruto is a boisterous collection of unstoppable energy.

The boy from that night was the moon and Naruto is the sun. Entirely opposite.

Still, if a small meal would help her prove what she knew to be right then she would do it. And if for some reason she was wrong and there was more to him than meets the eye, then at least the mystery would be solved and she could finally thank her savior in person.

But the thought of Naruto acting... cool. She had to laugh at the idea. No way that would ever happen.

XXXX

Naruto inhaled noodles like a hurricane. The act of him devouring everything in sight pushed 'spiders' off of Sakura's top five grossest things ever and replaced it with 'Naruto's eating habits.' It was like he took a big breath before he started eating and didn't exhale until he was done.

"Ahh." The blonde patted his belly in satisfaction and pushed another empty bowl away. "So Sakura-chan! What's up? You were acting weird today."

A tic mark formed on her head. "Oh yeah?" She ground out through grit teeth. "What makes you say that?"

"I don't know!" He said with a goofy grin. "You just seemed out of it."

"Well you're right about that..."

"Nani?"

Sakura sighed in the way she had planned. It was time to enact the small ruse to see if Naruto would admit anything to her. "Can you keep a secret?"

Just like she thought, Naruto nodded his head so furiously it nearly rolled off of his shoulders.

"The reason I've been so weird lately is because..." Sakura stared into his face to see if he would betray his ignorance, but he was on the edge of his seat and looked none the wiser. "Two weeks ago a man tried to rape me."

Naruto sputtered and fell off of his chair. "Kami! Are you okay?!" He jumped up and tried to wrap his arms around her just to have a fist connect with his face.

"I'm fine Baka. Somebody saved me."

"Oh thank Kami!" He sprawled out on the ground and rubbed his swollen cheek.

Sakura stood over him with a stern look of indignation on her face. "You don't know anything about it?"

"What?" He gave her a curious look as he patted some dust off of his pants.

"Nevermind." She turned and walked away. "Thanks for the ramen dobe. I'll see you in class."

Oh well. She knew he couldn't have been the one who saved her anyways. He was the dead last, not a hero. Even if he was there that night he probably couldn't have done anything. It didn't seem like Naruto had it in him to kill a person the way the mysterious boy did.

If she ever wanted to meet her savior again it looked like she was going to have to take things into her own hands.

XXXX

Her search had to be put on hold while she finished up her pre-genin classes. As usual, she aced all of the written tests but still landed herself ranked in the middle of her class because she placed last in all of the physical sections. She cursed herself for being so weak. Maybe if she spent more time on the training field and less time hitting the books then she could have defended herself instead of relying on some stranger to save her.

Sakura was happy to be a genin, but dammit all if she wasn't forced onto a team with Naruto. Of all the people who passed the class with her, why did he have to be the one placed with her? The chances of him ending up with her were like nine to one.

On the other hand, Sasuke-kun was also on her team. She supposed it should be easy to ignore Naruto with Sasuke acting as eye candy.

So she passed her first test. Then she passed the second test given to her by Kakashi-sensei- which she questioned the legality of- and now she finally decided it was time to find the mystery boy.

She went out after dark. Once again, asking for trouble.

She walked around the town, but stayed away from the shady areas. The downtown area, the redlight district, the brothels, and the bars were nowhere near her pre-set route. But after a few hours without finding who she was looking for she began to get desperate. The last time he came she was in trouble so she thought maybe the only way to get him back was to push herself into the same situation.

Sakura looked behind her and could see the route back to her house. She could just walk back and forget about this whole thing. She could just be happy she was saved and silently thank the boy who came to her rescue.

No. She wasn't sure if it was because she had already spent so long looking for him that it would feel like a waste to turn back now or if she was just stubborn, but there was no way she was going to give up yet.

Sakura looked ahead and saw the bright lights that kept the bar area illuminated all night. If there was going to be any trouble it would be there and she would find it.

As a newly minted genin she should be stronger than any civilian that meant to do her harm. Most adult males could easily overpower her, but she could always use one of the few starter jutsu she knew to escape. A bunshin to confuse or, if she was caught, a quick replacement jutsu. The man that assaulted her that night had caught her with her guard down, but this time she wont be unawares.

Sakura took a deep breath and walked towards a possible impending doom in the search for someone that she couldn't even put a face to.

"I thought I asked you not to go out after dark anymore..."

Sakura turned to see the mysterious boy, clad in the same dark brown hood and cloak, laying on a bench with his legs crossed and his hands laced behind his head.

"I've been looking for you."

He chuckled lightly. "I know. You've been walking around all night."

"Why the hell didn't you come out then?!" She fumed and stomped her foot.

"I'll tell you what..." He said as he languidly stood up. "I'll answer some of your questions if you promise to follow me."

"Fine." She said without hesitation.

He began walking directly towards the familiar direction of Sakura's house.

"How do you know where I live?" She started as she followed closely behind.

He turned around and began walking backwards, but still towards her home. "I'm very observant. I've seen you coming and going from there before."

"So you know me?"

"Yes I do, Sakura."

She itched her chin for a moment. "Who are you?"

"I'm not telling." She could hear the playfulness in his voice and it only served to infuriate her.

"Why not?"

"Because if I tell you, then you'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends, and the whole thing will just get out of hand."

"Ha. Ha." She chuckled with mirth. "Really though..."

"I did kind of kill a guy, you know?" He skipped back. "And the people in this town don't need any more reasons to want to kill me."

"I won't tell anyone."

"It's not really about any of that."

"Look. I just want to know who saved me! You saw what almost happened!"

He stopped walking. "I did. And I can't say I'll ever understand what that was like for you, but you have to realize how I feel as well. I killed a man for you. Don't forget that. His blood is on my hands, not yours."

She nodded slowly. Sakura never even stopped to think about what he had to go through. He murdered someone to keep her safe.

"Good." He said happily and began walking backwards again.

"I'm sorry. I just wanted to know who I was thanking."

He laughed louder than normal this time. "You really almost put yourself in serious danger just to come out here and thank me?"

She nodded. "I guess it was kind of stupid..."

"No! I'm actually very flattered."

"Well... thank you. I don't really know how to repay you. If there's anything I can do just tell me."

He stopped walking backwards as they finally made it to her house. She ignored going inside as his hand disappeared into the shadow made by his hood. Sakura guessed he was itching his chin. It seemed almost unfair to her that he would hide his identity in that shadow like some sort of cruel and unusual punishment directed at her curiosity.

"Anything you can do..." He hummed a few times. "How about you stop putting yourself in danger and stay in your house at night?"

Before she could answer he turned her around and pushed her through the gate to the front door of her house. She didn't even waste the time trying to thank him for walking her back. She knew that the infuriating boy had already left.

XXXX

"Ne. Sakura-chan." She slowly opened her eyes as she felt a bony finger poking her on the cheek. "Kakashi-sensei is here!"

She batted the finger away and yawned. Sakura never thought she would be happy that her sensei was a tardy delinquent bastard, but she treasured the extra time she had to sleep. She had stayed up almost the whole night before so she was pretty much running on fumes by the time their team meeting was scheduled. Good thing Kakashi liked to show up at least three hours late. She still arrived at the designated time, but instead of watching Sasuke warm up like usual, she decided to just pass out under the cool shade of the nearest tree until her sensei decided to grace them with their presence.

"Thanks Naruto."

Sakura grabbed his hand and hefted herself up. She tried to rub the sleep out of her eyes, but the vestiges of blurriness seemed like they had no intention of leaving and the sun burned so bright it was like someone set it to overkill just to mess with her.

"Lets go!" Naruto screamed enthusiastically and thrusted his fist into the air. How the hell is he so full of energy? Sakura glared at him in one part frustration and one part jealousy of his relentless stamina.

'Today is going to be rough.'

XXXX

"Two nights in a row? I'm beginning to feel special."

Sakura sneered at the cocky voice she desperately wanted put a face to.

After her rough day with her team she went home and went straight to bed, but she found herself just staring at the ceiling wondering about the strange boy again. The question ate at her like a cancer until she eventually just gave up on trying to sleep and decided to go look for him again. This time it didn't take more than ten minutes of searching before he slinked out of the shadows. Well, actually he just sort of appeared on the route she was walking-trying to almost make it look like a coincidence that they were meeting.

"And didn't I ask you not to come out at night anymore?"

She glared at his stupid brown cloak and stupid brown hood that covered his stupid face. "I'll stop coming out when you stop wearing that hood like some loser with a superhero complex."

"Ahaha!" His hand disappeared into his hood and it looked like he was wiping tears off of his face while his other hand wrapped against his stomach. He laughed so hard he nearly stumbled over a stone on the road. "Oh boy Sakura... I really don't remember... haha... the last time I laughed like this."

She grumbled as he tried his hardest to suppress his laughter only to fail and start chuckling to himself. "It's not that funny." Sakura pouted.

"Its just that I had no idea you thought that way about me." His voice was laden with suggestion.

"I don't! I just..." She choked.

"Well I'm definitely not a loser with a superhero complex." He continued. "Or at least I don't think I am..."

"So what are you? A masked vigilante or something?"

He laughed at her expense again. It was a little less than last time-he didn't laugh until he stumbled-but it still made her want to just tear his hood off and end this charade immediately. "I'm less a vigilante than a superhero." He laid down on the nearest bench and looked up at the sky. It wasn't the first time he had done this-he seemed to enjoy relaxing whenever he was given the chance. "A vigilante is self appointed doer of justice, but I've been given the job by the hokage."

"Given the job?" She scratched her chin. "So you're a ninja."

He had to be a ninja. It's the only logical possibility because they were only 'doers of justice' appointed by the hokage.

"Oh no. You're narrowing down my identity." He said in mock fear as he stood up and began walking towards her house once more. It seemed like they had a slight routine down-she comes out and he leads her back home. This time it seemed like he was taking her a longer way instead of the direct path though.

"You know... if that's true then you don't have to worry about getting in trouble for killing that man. You were working within your rights as a ninja." She explained.

"I wasn't a ninja yet."

She crossed her arms and struck a thinking pose, which usually involved squinting her eyes until they were nearly closed. "I was in the only class to graduate to ninja since that time. So that means you had to be a part of my class."

"I'm just the most terrible ninja there is I guess... I'm just dropping clue after clue." He said nonchalantly.

"Well, by the sound of your voice you're a boy..." She continued walking behind him, not paying attention to her surroundings-instead just following his feet out of the corner of her eye. "and there were only eighteen boys in our class who passed."

"Getting so close..." She could feel the smile under his hood.

Who could it be? Shino? It could be the bug boy- he did like to wear hoods and she had never really heard him talk to anyone before so she couldn't guess what his voice sounded like. But then again everyone else in the class is just as likely a suspect so trying to narrow it down to one person at this point would only make her biased and mess up her pseudo-investigation.

"Why don't you just tell me..."

She turned around only to realize he was gone. Sakura looked at her house with a sigh-he still dropped her off safe and sound just like usual.

Wood crunched under her hand as she opened the gate that lead to the front door of her modest home. The poor little wood gate probably wont make it many more nights if Sakura doesn't find out who this guy is soon.

XXXX

As the nights went on she found her will to find out his identity waning. At first it was the only thing that drove her to come out, but after spending more and more time with the mysterious stranger she found she didn't really care who he was any more. If anything, she didn't want to know. Each night with him was relaxing and she didn't want to chance ruining it by pressuring her friend into confession when he didn't want to.

Each night, she would leave her house and walk around for a few minutes before he'd appear next to her and say some smart ass comment; then they would stroll around to different places to lay down and stare at the moon while they talked about nothing and everything. She told him things she hadn't told anyone-even her dreams and aspirations of becoming like Lady Tsunade of the sannin, her shishou.

She didn't leave out any detail, except for some reason she didn't talk too much about Sasuke when she was with him. Sakura figured he probably didn't want to hear her talk about her crush each and every day. She left those conversations between her and Ino-until the day that Sasuke left her, that is.

The night after Sasuke left Konoha to join Orochimaru, she was in the hospital looking after Naruto, waiting for him to wake up after his fight with Sasuke-she stuck around his bed partly in worry and partly because she wanted to talk to him to find out what happened.

She missed that night with the stranger, but the next night she ran out to find him as quick as she could. As soon as her eyes caught the slight shine of his cloak, she was already jumping into his arms and wrapping him up with a hug-crying like a blubbering baby and not caring that he saw her this way. She had held her tears all day and tried to be as strong for Naruto as she could, but now that she was with her savior she didn't have to hold anything back.

He held her gently and patted her her back, whispering words to comfort her while she cried her heart out for her lost love and injured teammate. He was there for her just like he always was-ever reliable and cool and collected to a fault-keeping himself calm and acting as a pillar for her to lean on. She didn't even notice him grunting in pain when she held him too tight.

After that night she found herself staying out later and later with each visit. Most nights she would average only three hours of sleep before she had to get up and, when she had nothing to do the next day, she would stay with him until daybreak-when he would leave before the sun would allow her to see his face.

Months passed and the two became closer and closer. Their conversations started turning towards how the hooded boy felt about things, once Sakura finally started asking. Slowly, she began to learn about the real boy beneath the hood. She learned about the things that made him happy. She would ask about the music he liked and the books he read-then she would listen to and read them herself just so she could become closer to him.

Then one day when she went to visit him, he was sitting on a park bench with his hands covered in his hood. She was never able to see his face, but she found out this is what he does when he is having a problem.

"Hello Sakura." He said calmly.

"Hey." She wanted to return a greeting with his name, but she still had no idea what it was.

They began their usual walk around town in silence. The first few minutes were sometimes like this; them just taking the time to enjoy the night while they had it. Eventually, Sakura would ask him a question or just start talking about some random thing.

"Sakura... why do you come out each night?" Today he was the first to break the silence. And with a question she had often asked herself, but never had an answer.

"I want to find out who you are so I can thank you properly." This was her easy, fall back answer that she had come up with when she gave up on trying to find out exactly why she did venture out each and every night.

"Hmm." He didn't sound convinced. "Well whatever the reason, I'm glad you do."

"Me too." Sakura blushed only slightly-the light pink on her cheeks was soft enough that it couldn't even be seen under the moonlight. "My teammate Naruto left today. Went off with that pervert Sannin Jiraiya I was telling you about." She continued as she changed the subject off of the previous, more confusing, topic. "He's going to be gone for years this time."

"Are you going to miss him?" He asked as he noted the sadness in her voice.

"Who? The Baka?" She laughed quietly. "Yes and no. He's a good friend to have around. However, if he were to ask me, it would be an immediate no. I don't want to encourage him too much, he's clingy enough as he is."

He chuckled under his hood.

"He's got a lot of great qualities and his energy is the only thing that keeps me going sometimes, but at the same time he's got too much energy. He's always yelling and screaming about everything like he can't keep a lid on it. But even so, I'll miss him." She sighed.

It took a few more minutes of walking before he broke the silence again. "Sakura." The boy said quietly. "You said you want to know who I am, right?"

She turned to him with a confused look.

"I've kept my identity a secret from you for a long time, but not because I was afraid of being convicted for a murder. I was never actually afraid you would turn me in. The reason I've never showed you my face is because I was afraid that once you knew who I was, you wouldn't come to see me any more-and I didn't want to risk that happening."

"Regardless of who you are, I would still come see you." There was hope in her voice and she wanted him to know that it wasn't about his name or face anymore, but rather about what he meant to her. He gave her encouragement and strength that she didn't get from anyone, but he could act as her solid ground when life was shaky. No one would give that up, regardless of who they were.

The darkness of his hood turned as he looked towards her. His silence was unnerving and, even though she couldn't see his face, she felt uneasy.

"You said earlier you wanted to thank me..." He said as he approached her.

She nodded slowly.

"I do have something that I'd like to ask you for." He was being quieter than usual.

"What is it?" Sakura asked curiously, but he didn't answer. "You can ask me for anything you want." She knew exactly how open that proposition sounded and she had done it on purpose- she didn't want him to hold back for any reason. Even if it was her body he wanted, then she would give it to him. She had resolved herself to that well before she offered, but deep down she knew he would never ask for something like that.

"In stories... when the prince saves the princess... usually he gets rewarded with a kiss. Right?"

A wave of relief washed across her mind as he asked for something much less than she had feared. But just as fast as her relief came, it was gone. Ebbed away by the fact that he still wanted to kiss her. HE wanted to kiss HER. No one had ever actually asked her for that before. Usually she shot guys down before they had a chance-on the basis that they weren't Sasuke and that he was the one she would give her first kiss to-but this guy was obviously an exception to the rule. She told herself it was only because she owed him that she would do it. Plus, he called her a princess. He couldn't have been any more sweet if he was made of candy.

"Y...yes. They do."

Sakura lowered her head in embarrassment as he slowly closed the distance between them; letting her nervousness build with each step and her breath hitching every time.

A finger delicately traced her chin and she leaned toward it-letting it slide back and forth across her jaw. She lifted her head for him and tried to glance under his hood, but the darkness was still too heavy and she couldn't see him properly.

"No peeking." He said playfully as he covered her eyes with his hand.

Now she could do nothing, but wait for him. Even when she felt his breath colliding with hers only inches apart, she didn't know what she was feeling. Her heart was nearly out of her chest from beating so hard. Her lips quivered in anticipation and she barely had enough control of her legs to stand, but she didn't know what those symptoms meant.

A quick and small peck connected with her lips.

The hand over her eyes moved away and she saw him take a step back. Everything was over so fast that she couldn't help but to feel... wanting.

"If you want... you could do it again..." She didn't think, just spoke. He saved her and he could take as much as he wanted; he could drink until he was full.

He was already leaning forward when she started speaking and their lips connected again. This time it was lingering and slow. They savored every piece they could as if it would never happen again and each second was fleeting along with the night. She took the time to feel his warmth and tasted his saliva as they passed it between each other and he did the same. She didn't even think to open her eyes to see his face because by the time they disconnected, they were already bound.

"Again..."

The months had culminated in this. Any previous feeling of nervousness was gone. All she wanted was more. The exchange was more frenzied and ferocious this time as they released the tension they had built during their nights together. Their lips collided and bruised as their hands clung to the others body like a vice-moving about in hungry passion over their midnight lover.

Sakura's hand smoothed down his cheek and she pulled her mouth from his in quick surprise.

"Whisker scars?"

She was sure she felt them-three scrapes across his cheek. There is only knew one person with facial scars like those and he shouldn't be in Konoha anymore. She watched him leave!

"Sakura..." He said while regaining his composure. "I'm sorry."

She heard the familiar poof that she had heard hundreds of times before when she trained with Naruto. The sound of a clone expelling into particles of chakra and smoke. Immediately afterward, she watched as the cloak fell to the ground-it's previous occupant long gone-having never actually been there himself.

Sakura picked up the cloth by the hood that had covered her saving grace for months. "Baka." She sighed.

Sixty miles away, in another city on a rooftop looking up at the moon, a young blonde boy smiled and touched his lips as his shadow clone's memory merged with his.

XXXX

Sakura still looked for him the next night even though she knew he wouldn't be there, but after going out for so long it was a force of habit to walk around Konoha after dark and she couldn't give it up just because her partner was missing. She enjoyed the night too much by this point so, just like she used to, Sakura would lay down in her favorite spots around town and stare up at the moon; each and every night she would look and stare and hope that somewhere Naruto was looking at the same thing and thinking of her.

Years passed and she knew the day was approaching for him to return. When he finally did she wanted to say he was smooth and calm like she remembered him, but that would be a flat out lie. He came back midday during the summer three years after he had left. He looked mature with new clothes and built muscles that had taken over his once thin frame, but underneath he was still just a loudmouth baka.

"How do I look?" Sakura said while striking a sexy, but modest pose.

"You haven't changed a bit Sakura-chan!" He moronically answered like overly loud idiot.

She shoved her fist into his face. After all the time she spent getting ready that morning he definitely needed an ass whooping for his ignorance. Couldn't he see how nice her hair was, dammit?!

Sakura dragged his beaten corpse to the hokage. Tsunade had ordered Sakura to bring him to her office as soon as he returned for a mission briefing. He complained that he had just gotten into town and wanted to get readjusted before he had to start working, but she said...

"You just had three years of pay with absolutely no real missions you little brat! Now shut your ass up and do what I say!"

Naruto whimpered like every other man in his situation and nodded his head to do what she said with absolutely no more complaints.

"Alright then. I was going to have you and Sakura spar against Kakashi to see your progress, but he's on a mission right now and I have something more important for you to take care of." She threw a file across her desk for Naruto to read. "A village on the border of Fire Country has caught a disease that we need to keep in check. I'm too busy to take care of it myself, but as my apprentice I trust Sakura to do the job in my place. All you need to do is bring her there."

"Hai, Baa-chan!"

"Stop calling me that!"

XXXX

The pace Naruto could keep was unreal. Sakura felt like she had been in a flat out sprint since they left the village, but he isn't even sweating. That kind of endurance isn't even human.

"Dammit baka!" She screamed to his back as he began to gain ground between them. "Slow down!"

He planted his feet and stopped abruptly. "Oh. I'm sorry Sakura-chan!" The blonde scratched the back of his head in embarrassment. "Ero-sennin made me keep up with him or he'd steal my wallet and spend all my money on booze and hookers. I guess I just got used to his pace after a while."

Sakura sighed. What kind of life had he been living over the past three years?

"Just pay attention next time..." She huffed out between pants.

"Ahh uhh. Of course Sakura-chan." He looked to the sun to see it beginning to set. "It's getting dark. I'll set up camp if you want to take a break."

She didn't do much more than wave him off and even that took up what little energy she had left after her sprint marathon sponsored by the Baka.

Naruto jumped off to prepare the camp. It took him at least a tenth of the time it would have taken her to do the same thing when he used his clones. It felt like only minutes had gone by and they had a tent set up, a fire blazing with fish cooking over the flame, a stock pile of wood next to them, and even some makeshift chairs that he made from some thicker logs. She bet he probably already had a latrine dug somewhere too. The sun had been setting when he started and now it was barely below the horizon. How does he keep it up like that?

"Only one tent?" She asked. He better not be hoping to sleep in there with her. He's not allowed to take a liberty like that even if she did miss him.

"Don't worry. It's only for you, Sakura." He unrolled a sleeping bag next to the fire. "I like to be outside at night. A tent would feel a little constricting."

She noticed he sounded calmer and quieter than earlier. His voice was the same as it used to be when she met with her midnight stranger. He didn't seem like he was in as much of a rush anymore and even the way he smiled at her was different.

Sakura opened the flap to her tent and pulled her sleeping bag out to lay it directly next to his. He eyed her curiously and wore a smile that said he knew she was going to do that.

"What?" She bit.

"Nothing." He said gently as he moved to allow her a better position next to the fire.

They both just laid back and stared at the moon and stars hovering silently above them. It didn't take long before her emerald eyes wandered away from the heavenly bodies and onto the boy next to her. This was the longest she had ever seen Naruto keep his mouth shut. Normally he would be talking about ramen or becoming the hokage by this point and ending each of his sentences with a loud 'Dattebayo!' that would hurt her ears and annoy her to no end, but instead he was completely silent-just staring up at the clear sky with a small happy smile on his face and his arms crossed behind his head.

"Is this revenge for having stared at you every day when we were kids?" He chuckled. "I guess you were right to call me creepy for it. It's kind of weird." His head turned and she saw an almost unfamiliar, subdued look on his face that she could barely recognize as her teammates. "Is there something you want to say Sakura?"

She bit her lip and tried to form the words she was looking for, but she couldn't find them.

"Would this help?" He took a blanket and wrapped it around his body like a cloak, he even used a small part to act as a hood and covered his face. It wasn't a full recreation of the boy who saved her, but it was close enough to get the idea across.

Sakura moved closer and put her hands through his hood to rest them on his cheeks. "I've waited forever to do this." She said as she slid the fabric back and revealed his gentle smiling face to the moonlight. For just a few moments, she enjoyed her hands lying on his neck before she smacked him hard across the face.

"Ouch." He said lazily as he rubbed the red spot forming on his face. "But I guess I deserved that."

"You deserve a lot more, but I'm too tired right now so count yourself lucky." With her revenge for leaving and hiding who he was complete, they laid down next to each other-Sakura inching as close as she could without being on top of him. "You're back, but I don't get it. Why are you so different when I see you at night?"

"Hmm." He hummed quietly. "I'm not exactly sure, but I have an idea." He pointed up at the sky. "It's the moon. Every time I look at it I feel calm, like warm sake is coursing through my veins-but during the day I feel more like I'm snorting cocaine or something." He chuckled. "People always ask me where I get all my energy or why I get so excited all the time, but the truth is I couldn't slow myself down even if I wanted to. Standing still is almost painful while the sun is out. I don't quite understand it myself."

"You barely even sound the same. I had no idea it was you I was meeting all the time."

"It's said that people can change at night. Plants and animals too. I guess I'm no different."

"But I've been with you at night during missions before. You never acted any different then."

"What can I say?" He shrugged. "I'm a pretty good actor when I want to be. All I have to do is shout everything I say and no one knew anything."

"So it's like you're not the same person?"

"Same guy. Less energy." He said as if it was that simple.

She had never really thought about it that way, but things do change after dark. It's a fact of nature. Animals could become hunters and people could become monsters- she was a personal witness to the drastic change in human nature. She had read stories about men that have even gone insane from staring at the moon for too long. Thinking about it that way, going from hyperactive to calm doesn't seem too crazy.

"You know..." She said softly. "For the past three years I've been thinking about what I was going to say or do when I saw you again."

"You were thinking about me?" He smiled. "Were you ever in the bath when you did? I like the sound of that."

Sakura smacked his arm playfully. "Not like that you pervert. I think you spent too much time with Jiraiya. I'm not some poorly thought up horny girl like in his dirty books."

They chuckled together. "Those stories are real, you know."

"No way!" Sakura said in disbelief. "They're like some teenage boy's fantasy or something. That kind of perverted stuff doesn't happen in real life."

"I didn't believe it either, but after spending three years with him I found he bases everything off of real things he sees."

"Really... Wasn't there a scene where a pool boy just happens to walk in on two experimenting college girls?"

"Well... it's loosely based off of real life." Naruto squirmed. "Most of that stuff was things he paid girls in a brothel to do for him."

"Oh... yuck."

"You have no idea, Sakura." The blonde shivered. "I've seen things. Terrible horrible things."

"Like what?"

"I don't wanna talk about it." He responded quickly.

She covered her mouth and laughed into her fingertips. She was enjoying herself. For the first time since he left, she was really enjoying herself.

It felt natural for them both to just fall asleep next to each other. Comfortably quiet and adjusting to each others presence again, they wrapped their fingers together and nodded off under the stars.

XXXX

Impressive. It was the only word to describe the things she could do when she was serious. The second they made it to the diseased and destroyed village, Sakura began an unbelievable battery of tests that Naruto couldn't understand. He wanted to help, but he knew he would just get in her way. So instead he did the only thing he could- he fixed up the dilapidated and neglected buildings that needed repair since everyone was too sick or too busy to fix them.

Most stuff was easy to handle; just roof repair or window replacement. Some things, not so much. Good thing he had shadow clones to help or this could have been a lot harder. A few of the buildings were on their last leg before he got to them.

The turnaround was amazing. Within a few hours you could see the change. The town was small, but it looked alive even with the limited number of people. Whatever Sakura was doing, it was working. The people were throwing up when they got there and now they were smiling, or at least they weren't losing their lunches anymore.

"Sakura-chan! You're amazing! You kicked that viruses ass!"

She blushed and scratched the back of her head. "It was a bacteria, actually. It was in the water."

"Sugoi!" He picked her up into a hug and spun a few times.

Something like this used to bother her. She would probably have punched Naruto in the face by this point for picking her up off the ground, but now his overwhelming energy didn't even phase her. Now that she understood him a little more, she realized that this is just a part of him she had to accept. In the end, it's not really his fault. He was just too full of energy to slow down, his mind was running with ten thoughts at once and he didn't know how to communicate with people, let alone focus on anything.

But she was starting to notice that he was more consistent than she had originally thought. When they talked, she could see that the boy she had come to know at night and the loudmouth she knew during the day were a lot more similar than she realized.

Sometime during their conversation the sun set. Naruto looked on as it dipped below the horizon before turning his head and finding the moon risen on the other side. "That feels better." He said with an easy sigh.

"You calmed down yet?" Sakura asked as she witnessed him lose his pent up energy along with the sun.

His shoulders loosened and a relaxed grin spread across his lips. "I'm getting there." He nodded. "That moon always gets me."

They stayed quiet for a few moments as he took deep breaths. Even his breathing had slowed down.

"You really were amazing today, Sakura." He said reassuringly as he turned to her. "I knew that you would be something great when I came back, but in one day you turned this depressed village into a healthy community. I think you're even better than Baa-chan."

"Well... you helped." She looked at the repaired houses. "I didn't know you were this good at fixing things."

"It looks like we both picked up a few new things in the past three years."

She smiled toward the ground. "Yeah."

"We can save that for later. For now we should rest." He pointed toward one of the houses. "The village elder said we could use this one tonight."

They walked in saw how cramped the old house was. Just a kitchen and a bedroom really. Still, it was bigger than some of the other houses in town. It was a pretty poor place to live. It was a wonder they could even pay for the fee to bring Sakura and Naruto there.

Sakura sat at the table and Naruto moved to the stove. "They don't have much food, but they spared enough for us. I could probably make you a decent meal if you want."

"You can cook?"

"I'm not the best, but I can." He pulled a pan out of a cupboard. "I learned a few other things too."

He crossed his fingers and a clone took over on the stove. The real Naruto walked over and pulled the other chair to face hers before lifting her foot onto his knee and massaging her soles.

"You worked hard today." She mewled under his fingers as he loosened her cramped muscles. "You deserve to relax for a little bit."

"I... ohhh..." She moaned. "Where did you learn this?"

"Ero-sensei was a good teacher, regardless of his personal habits. When he told me this was going to be something I needed to know for the future I called him a pervert and walked away. I'm glad he convinced me to learn."

"Me too." She said as she leaned her head back to look up at the ceiling.

He smiled and gently moved on to her calves.

What was this? This quiet town deep in the woods. This handsome man at her feet, rubbing them after a hard days work and cooking food that smelled delicious. This man she was alone with in a small house set up just for them- with one room and one kitchen table where they had to look into each others eyes when they ate. And there was only one bed... either big enough for one single person or one couple laying wrapped together under the sheets.

Naruto looked up at her and smiled as he traded to her other leg.

And what was this blonde mop of hair smiling up at her as he seemed happier to touch her leg than she was to get the massage? Something that felt so good to her appeared to feel even better to him as he happily smoothed his fingers across her leg.

Is this what it would be like to have a relationship with him? All smiles, warmth, and confusing feelings.

"Naruto..."

"The food's done." He said as he stood up and took the two plates full of rice and meat from his clone. "The spices around here are a little different than home, but they smell good. The meat may be a little gamey though."

They dug into their deserved meal. It was good, considering he couldn't work with much and she was expecting even less. And the way their feet kept brushing up against each other made everything seem a little more than just a dinner.

The warm dish settled at her stomach and made her yawn. The long day was finally beginning to weigh down on her.

"You should get some rest, Sakura." He said as he stood and took their plates to a small sink next to the stove.

She stood and walked to the frame of the sole bedroom of the house. "There's only one bed." It wasn't very big and the sheets looked uncomfortable. The mattress was probably terrible and used up too, but nothing to really complain about. It still looked warm and inviting.

"That's okay. You know I like to sleep outside anyways." He said as he wiped a dish clean.

"But it's cold outside."

"I've slept in worse. Besides, I naturally have a high body temperature. I'll be okay."

"You shouldn't stay out there. There's wild animals."

He chuckled. "Nothing I can't handle."

Sakura huffed in frustration. "Baka, look at me."

He put the dish into a dry rack and turned to her.

"It's cold outside..." Sakura leaned against the frame and stared into his blue eyes. "I would feel better if I knew you were safe... with me."

He looked between her and the room behind her. "With... you?"

The pinkette walked over to him and grabbed his hands. He left the rest of the dishes unclean as she pulled him into the room with her. "You know... technically I never gave you a reward for saving me that day. I gave it to a shadow clone."

"Really?"

"But I'm going to pay up right now." She licked her lips. "With a little interest."

He grinned as she pushed him back onto the bed and straddled his waist. "Sakura, I think I like this side of you. Where's it coming from?"

She shrugged. "I guess you're not the only one who acts a little different when the moon is out."

XXXX

There was no difference between the sun and the moon anymore.

In the end he's still the same person. The time of day was never actually relevant. It took time, but she found it was the truth. He was happy day or night and so was she.

When things finally started, it wasn't small. Instead they jumped in head first and hoped for the best. It began with a scared girl and a scared boy would covered his fear for her. He reached out his hand that he forced to keep still even though it was covered in blood and shaking. And she grabbed it even though she was frightened and hurt.

What they had grew from less than nothing. At one point, the idea of a relationship with Naruto was like thinking about nails on a chalkboard. She couldn't consider that he was the only one she wanted all along.

But now he's here and things have changed. Of all the people it could have been, it was him. It still surprises her. She never thought he was that clever before. That's probably why she was ignorant to what was right in front of her. But she wouldn't have changed a single thing.

She was blind until that night they kissed. Or rather, when she and his clone kissed. The word wasn't put on it yet, but it was love. She felt bound at the time and didn't know what it meant. There was this tugging at her chest when she thought about him that only got stronger when he was there. And oh was it strong. Like a torrent or some sort of all encompassing wash on her heart. It was too hard to explain something like that at the time.

Then, after the day in the diseased village where their teamwork renewed the people's lives, they themselves felt a renewal. And that night she figured out a sure fire way to calm him down. Something that only she herself was allowed to do with him- she made damn sure of it. No one else could touch him and the same rule applied to her. They were only for each other now; a romantically mismatched pair of ninja.

They would stay together. Happy and madly infatuated even into old age, if they could make it that long. Their lives were uncertain in most aspects since it could end at any time, but they knew that what they had would keep. Even apart, it would still be there- that red string of fate that couldn't be cut would stay wrapped around their fingers.

And the funniest part was, it all happened because of what was supposed to be a short and simple walk home after a day of studying.

XXXX END XXXX

I hoped you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it because this one felt pretty good. It was pretty fluffy in the end there, but I couldn't really think of another way to end it without making it into a much longer story that diverged from the original premise.

Also, I've been pondering a companion piece to this from Naruto's POV. If you've got some input on that I'd love to hear it.

Anyways, for all who are wondering, I am still working on my other stories. I'll have more time to continue them soon so expect that in the near future.

Read and Review please!