I do not own Naruto...

Work In Progress

For the eighth time that evening, Sasuke stood in front of the mirror, this time donned in a grey, high-collared, short-sleeved shirt and a simple pair of black pants. Undoubtedly, the shirt, like all his other tops, bore the fan symbol of the Uchiha on his back. Without taking his eyes off his reflection, he pulled the zipper up before giving a sigh. This will do, he finally settled.

Turning around, his eyes fell on the pile of clothes on his bed. There was a sleeveless, turtle-necked black t-shirt, a sleeveless dark-grey shirt, a black long-sleeved shirt, a simple blue shirt, a standard black Uchiha robe and even a flak jacket. There were also arm-guards and arm-bands he had earlier put on but decided to do away with at the end. Standing before the mess he had made, he briefly wondered when he had ever been that indecisive… and when he had even needed to be bothered with his appearance before. Still, he gave a crooked smile despite himself. For once, his indecision and that little bit of anxiety, was a positive sign.

As he walked out of his bedroom and towards the front door, he gently picked up a small, draw-string pouch from the table before grabbing his sword out of habit. A few paces later, he stopped, shook his head at his natural fighter instinct, turned around and put his sword back on the side table. He had no need for swords… not tonight. The pouch however, was an important gift. He placed it into his pocket and held it there for a little while, making sure that he had the right item for the occasion. Then, adjusting his collar again, he turned around and walked out of his house, immediately greeted by the cool, crisp air of night. He drew in a deep lungful of air as he gave a quick glance around. Somehow, everything around him seemed exceptionally pleasant tonight. Sighing in contentment, he walked out of the Uchiha compound.

He started with casual strolls. He already knew where he was going, walking through the main streets of Konoha first, with just the slightest hint of anticipation. Then, he turned into a smaller street and after that, through some back lanes. By the time he walked past a couple of training grounds, he was finding it difficult to keep to his usual, relaxed pace. By some means, he was becoming more and more energized. When he finally came into a meadow overlooking a river, his heart was racing with a kind of excitement he had not known he was capable of and before he knew it, he was moving in strides towards an old sakura tree. However, before he could reach the tree and before he could even start to calm his escalated anticipation, he could feel a sudden wrench to his heart when he realized that there was no one in the meadow. She wasn't there…

He stopped short a few steps before the tree, taking in short breaths, both to compose his racing heartbeat that had yet to calm down and to soothe the sudden twinge of immense disappointment he was feeling - he was so sure she would be there. Many seconds passed before he finally settled down. Maybe she didn't know he was back, he consoled, his head dropped in false comfort. Then, slowly gathering a little chakra to his feet, he dragged himself up the tree and settled on one of the higher branches.

It had been six months since he last saw her. Everything had been courteous between them before that. Well, on her part, at least, not his. He had been… he had to admit, indifferent, or to put it in a better way, courteously uninterested. He had been uninterested when Naruto had stated that Sakura and he were finally a pair. He had been uninterested when they had suggested that he got himself a girlfriend. He had been uninterested when they had proposed that he go out with a certain Hyuga and he had certainly been uninterested when they had brought Hyuga Hinata along on one of their outings. Nevertheless, he didn't really lose his temper when Naruto and Sakura had so sneakily arranged for a couple of dinners for them even when the two had conveniently forgotten to show up. He just couldn't be bothered.

But when he finally realized that the girl with flowing, long black hair; white, glass-like eyes; fair, smooth complexion was as uninterested as he was, he started paying attention. She didn't seem interested in him at all. That realization didn't only make him curious, it infuriated him to no end. He couldn't understand how she could stay quiet for over half an hour without making a single sound and didn't even seem awkward. He couldn't understand why she would only make polite, almost obligatory dialogue when all other ladies he had known would jump at every opportunity they have to drown him with words of praise and admiration. He couldn't understand how she could say goodbye with just a simple bow without even making eye contact with him when so many other ladies would look at him with carnal innuendoes whenever the opportunity arose. She was different - he slowly realized that fact when he started to take notice and somehow, something in him stirred at her reserved nature. He liked the fact that she was different.

In all actuality, it had been more than three years since they won the last war, more than three years since he had returned to the village. From where he was perched, he pondered at all the things that had taken place since then. He pondered at how things have changed and how things would be in the future. Even though he hated to admit it, Naruto had been right – it was time to start anew, time to look ahead and perhaps, even time to start a family. But then, before he could do all that, there was still one most important thing to overcome… he had to win her heart.

Hinata strode into the meadow in a simple pink kimono. Admittedly, she was out of breath. Even though she had frequented this place for the past six months, she hadn't planned on coming tonight. But when Ko, her personal guardian, mentioned that a certain Uchiha had returned earlier, she knew she wanted to be near the river as soon as possible. Then again, she would have worn something simpler – a light blue blouse under her usual zip-up jacket would have sufficed. But she had other commitments beforehand. The Hyuga family had played host to an assembly of delegates from a neighboring village earlier. It was only proper for her to dress appropriately. Nevertheless, she was also lucky that she no longer bore the responsibility of an heir, the job being passed to her younger sister many years back. That way, she was able to skip the dinner with the delegates without too much argument from her father's part, taking her leave straight after the meeting.

She gave a quick scan around the area, her earlier strides slowed into heavy gaits when she realized that there was no one in the meadow. And she thought she was late. Disappointedly, she let out a sigh as she pulled herself forward. She was so sure he would be there. Had she heard him wrong? Well, he didn't exactly mention the sakura tree or even the meadow. All he said was 'wait for him' before he left. But since they had been standing right under the tree when he had said those words, it was only natural to be waiting for him there. Then again, since he didn't show up, she started doubting her own memories. Did he really ask her to wait for him? Maybe… but did he really mean it? Had she been anticipating something that was foolish?

Fact was, they hadn't exactly gotten serious at any point. That was the reason why she would have preferred to show up in simpler clothes. She didn't really want to make it look like she was actually taking the effort to look presentable before him when in actual fact, he might not even be interested in her. Nevertheless, he had actually held her hand just before he was assigned a six-month long undercover mission to the Land of Honey. And he had asked her to wait for him. Was it possible that she had overreacted? Somehow, she was starting to feel that she might have made a big deal out of his simple gesture. He most likely did that to other girls and it probably didn't mean anything in particular. She gave another sigh and slowly slumped under the tree.

A good half an hour passed before Hinata leisurely stood up to leave. By then, she had made up her mind that she had indeed overplayed her feelings towards the Uchiha – he wasn't really attracted to her. But just before she could take her first step towards home, Sasuke landed right in front of her with a thump. Truth be told, he had been delighted to see her come into view earlier and he didn't miss how she had decided to turn up in a kimono. She must have been anticipating his return, he thought, almost swollen with pride. Nevertheless, he had been hiding behind a seal, concealing his presence just so that he could see her reaction the whole time - her reaction to his supposed non-appearance. He wanted to know if she was looking forward to seeing him at all. And from her actions and sighs, he could imply that she was as eager to see him as he was, her.

Hinata squealed at his sudden appearance from above her. "You…" she blurted, her heart beating much too fast for comfort. How could she, at her kunoichi level, have failed to spot his presence?

"What?" he coolly asked, amused at her reaction.

"You… you've been here the whole time?" she finally asked, immediately putting herself on an offensive mode when she realized that Sasuke had probably been spying on her.

He gave an insolent smile that only served to irritate her further. She turned to walk away, instantaneously finding herself being blocked when Sasuke moved to stand before her path.

"I'm going home," she quietly said, not looking at him at all.


"I…" she couldn't answer. She was sure he already knew she had been waiting for him and she could also presume that he had been waiting for her too. But both of them weren't going to admit it right then.

Then, she turned to leave from her other side, immediately being stopped when Sasuke grabbed her hand and placed a small, draw-string pouch into it. Surprised, she looked up to meet his eyes.

"It's for you," he said curtly, obviously unaccustomed to being too polite. On top of that, he was also unaccustomed to buying gifts for any girl or anybody for that matter.

She held on to the gift, contemplating on whether or not to open it, pride and dignity on the line.

"Go on, open it," he encouraged but when she refused to respond, he took the pouch from her hand and emptied its content into his hand.

It was a silver bracelet with a small flower pendant. He then took her hand, immediately encountering her tenacity when she pulled it back. But he wouldn't yield to her actions and soon, she relented. After that, he proceeded to fasten the bracelet onto her wrist. She kept quiet the whole time but when he looked up, he could see that all manner of defense on her part had melted away. And then he smirked.

"I don't really know what you like…" he said afterward, looking away as he ran a hand through his hair, uncomfortable with his sudden awkwardness.

"It's beautiful…" she remarked. "…I… I like it."

Their eyes met again and this time, he found that he couldn't look away. But by then, he was able to flaunt an impish smile while she fought hard not to blush. Seconds passed when he finally exhaled aloud as he placed a hand over his stomach.

"You know, I've not eaten anything since I came back…" he admitted. "Would you join me for dinner?"

She nodded. She hadn't had dinner too.

"Let's try Unasho. I heard they serve the best unagi there."

She nodded again as they started walking. A few paces later, he took her hand. It felt like the most natural thing to do and, the fact that she didn't refuse him gave him confidence. Somehow, things were slowly falling into place and they both knew they were making progress…

- end -

A/N: …reviews?