Sasuke didn't often abuse the power being in a squadcar afforded him, and he doubted there was any real urgency in rushing over to Sakura's friend's house, but he was dying for a little bit of action.

It didn't hurt that the action was pretty, either, but that was neither here nor there.

He made it across WeKo easily, knowing exactly the apartment building Sakura had been talking about when she gave him her friend's address. It was a decent complex, in a neighborhood that was neither especially nice nor particularly deplorable. He knew many local college students made it their home because it was affordable.

Once there, he parked his car conspicuously out front; it was amazing how many criminals steered clear of a place just because of a well-placed police squadcar. Keeping his hand on his gun, he jogged up the walkway and stepped inside the building.

2nd floor, he thought, recalling the address Sakura had given him. He headed up the stairs keeping his eyes peeled for suspicious activity or people, but it seemed the first floor was empty. He rang the doorbell and called out, "Miss Haruno? Officer Uchiha, open up!"

There was a rustle from upstairs and he stood back to give her room to open the door. Sakura answered looking very tired and a little breathless; she'd clearly just come from her friends' funerals, dressed in a simple black dress with her eye makeup smeared, doubtlessly from crying. Hating that he still found her very attractive, he effected cool professionalism.

"I came right over," he said needlessly, having just hung up with her five minutes ago.

"Clearly," she replied, a little amused if the tired smile she offered was any indication. "Um, why don't you come inside, I guess?"

Like many people who had never committed a crime before, she didn't seem to have any clue on how to handle a police interrogation. He returned his gun to his holster and followed her inside, watching to make sure she locked the door behind them.

"This is my friend Naruto's place," she said, when they stepped into the living room. "I'm crashing here with the baby until we get everything moved in to my new place."

"When's that?" Sasuke asked, eyes sweeping across the small but respectable apartment for signs of suspicion.

"Tomorrow morning. It's in WeKo, by the university. Fresh Start Manor."

Sasuke knew of the reasonably new apartment complex that had gone up in WeKo; it was in a nice area of town and home to a number of families. It was definitely a good choice for Sakura and her new baby, much better than this apartment, which had recently been cleaned but still smacked of a college bachelor pad.

"This is Naruto," Sakura said, and Sasuke looked up to see a tall, burly blonde man coming in from the kitchen. The baby – Asuma, if he remembered right – was awake and in his arms, his almost frighteningly clear blue eyes settling exclusively on Sasuke as a big smile spread across his face.

"Hey, man," said Naruto, extending his free hand out to Sasuke to shake, which he did. "Nice to meet you, thanks for coming."

"Officer Uchiha," Sasuke introduced himself. "Boyfriend?"

"I wish!" Naruto laughed, at the same time Sakura replied, "No, we're just friends."

Something felt a bit lighter in Sasuke's stomach at that, but he refused to delve farther into it. At best, Sakura was emotionally unavailable at the moment; at worst, she was the victim of an ex-boyfriend's stalking. Either way, to so much as consider her in anything other than a professional capacity was out of the question.

"Sorry to bug you so soon after the dust settled on everything," Sakura apologized, folding her arms and looking a little disappointed in herself. "I hate being a bother."

"It's not a bother if someone's stalking you," Sasuke said forcefully. "What's his name? Your ex-boyfriend."

"Shi. Shi Fukuda. He was a tech at the lab I work at. He was fired after…"

She trailed off, looking markedly uncomfortable, but the blonde guy, Naruto, placed his hand on her shoulder in a show of support.

"It's all right, he's got to know if he's gonna help you," he said kindly. To Sasuke, he explained, "They dated for six months. He got really creepy, started following her, reading her emails and texts and shit…possessive as hell, tried to keep her away from her friends. One night he hit her, so she broke it off. Somehow he never got the hint, though."

Sasuke studied Sakura as Naruto told the story. She avoided his eyes, clearly ill at ease over what was being discussed.

"How long have you two been broken up?" he asked instead, taking down the information in his PDA.

"It's been over a year," Sakura answered. "He tried to break in one night after I broke up with him, but Naruto was there."

"I laid him out," Naruto said smugly.

"Yeah, pretty much," Sakura agreed, smiling at the memory before frowning at her reality. "He was quiet after that, but it started up again a few months later. Ino was pregnant, I know that…when she had the baby, I changed my phone number and all the locks on my apartment hoping he wouldn't be able to contact me anymore, but I still had letters in my inbox at work, pictures and stuff. Really…really fucked up stuff, honestly."

"Did you save any of them?" Sasuke demanded, knowing he'd need evidence of this Shi Fukuda's crime before he could get Sakura the protection she needed.

"I threw out a lot, but lately I kept them in case I'd need them. They're at my apartment."

"Hn. Let's go get them."

"What, right now?" Naruto asked, frowning. "It's late, man."

"It's okay," Sakura assured him. "Can you just hang onto Asuma here for a little while? I know exactly where they're at, it'll only take a half hour at most."

She grabbed her coat from the back of the couch and quickly pulled on a pair of boots, then dropped a quick kiss to Asuma's head. Sasuke knew he was hard and unmoved by a lot of things, but the look the baby got in his eyes when Sakura kissed him nearly drew a smile to his face. Sakura very well might be going through it right now, but at least her new kid loved her entirely and absolutely.

"I'm parked out front," Sasuke said, holding open the door for her and nodding a goodbye to her friend. "Walk behind me."

He led her outside to his squadcar, and held the front door open for her. She giggled as she got inside.

"I never knew if anybody ever got to ride shotgun in a police car," she explained at his inquisitive stare. "Besides other cops. Now I know."

He smirked and got into the driver's seat, started the car, and pulled away.

"Uh, I live the other way," she informed him as he turned down Hillcrest. "By the bridge?"

He frowned. "That's not where I checked in on you the other day."

"No, that was…that was Ino's place, remember?"

Sasuke wanted to kick himself for forgetting that she'd been camping out at Ino's the night of the accident, and quickly changed the subject so as not to upset her any further.

"Do you have a picture of him?" he asked.

"Yeah, a few."

"I'll run his name through the system, see what comes up. No idea where he lives?"

"None. He moved right after everything happened."

"Phone number? Facebook? Anything like that?"

"His texts and calls all show up 'Restricted,' and I think he changes phones. He took down his Facebook and Twitter after I blocked him."

"Hn. Sounds like he knows what he's doing."

Sakura hesitated, crossing and uncrossing her legs again from the seat beside him, before she said, "Look, I'm sorry to be such a pain in the ass. I swear I'm not usually this…dysfunctional."

Sasuke chuckled and shook his head. "You don't need to apologize for anything. Apart from your taste in boyfriends, it sounds like you're doing a pretty decent job, all things considered."

He literally could not believe the words coming out of his mouth. This wasn't his style, at all. This wasn't the kind of person he was. Never before had a fucking insignificant citizen elicited so…much from him before. He was comforting her, reassuring her, rushing to her aid in the middle of the night when it wasn't really his responsibility to do so…

It would figure that the first girl he'd show any interest in in years would be someone entirely inappropriate to consider.

"…you look young. Like my age." Sakura was staring at him now, eyes squinted as if trying to figure him out. "Oh, make a left up here, it's much faster. Yup, right by the harbor. How old are you?"



He smirked. "22," he replied truthfully.

"I was only off by a year, then," she said with triumph.

"You're 21?"

"Yeah. I just graduated from KU, did you go there?"

"Nah. Oto Tech."

"Oh, wow, I have a friend who went there! She would have graduated with you, I think, her name's Karin?"

Sasuke winced at the memory of very red hair, very strong perfume, and very unwelcome sexual advances; Sakura noticed, and laughed.

"Yeah she comes on a bit strong," Sakura allowed. "And you'd be her type, for sure."

Unable to resist her banter now that she was in good spirits, Sasuke asked, "And what's her type?"

"Tall, dark, and handsome," Sakura replied promptly, then her eyes went wide and she clapped her hands over her mouth, plainly mortified.

Sasuke couldn't help himself; he laughed, and a real one at that, the kind only his mother could elicit. She clearly hadn't meant to say something so bold, but he'd be lying if he said it did nothing for his admittedly massive ego.

Forcing himself to concentrate on the task at hand – which was not chatting up a victim – he choked back the rest of his laughter and followed her directions to her apartment in silence.

When they arrived, he escorted her inside, eyes moving back and forth to gauge their surroundings in case she was being followed even now. There was nothing overly suspicious about the building, a nice low-rent apartment complex full of young people just starting out. Basic red brick and a decent-sized parking lot with a few well-trimmed rosebushes but nothing more than that. He did not register anything out of the ordinary as Sakura let them into her apartment.

Moving boxes littered the small space but everything had been taken down from the walls, all the furniture stacked by the door ready to be moved.

"Sorry it's such a mess," Sakura apologized automatically, and unnecessarily. "I kept everything in a hat box just in case."

She began rummaging through her packed belongings while Sasuke watched quietly from the doorway, one hand on his gun purely on reflex.

"How far back did you start keeping track of his communications?" he asked.

"Right about the time Asuma was born," she replied, not looking up from her search for the hat box. "Before that I just threw everything away. Like it made me uncomfortable and everything but not to the point where I wanted to take it to the cops. It got worse, though, as time went on."

"Usually does," he replied grimly.

"Yeah. I should've known better than to get mixed up with him, but…oh, here it is!"

She pulled a pink-and-yellow striped hat box out from a very large cardboard box full of clothes and set it on the floor, opening the lid so he could see inside. There were at least a hundred plain white index cards inside, each with a printed message; he picked one up at the corner and read, "Skinny jeans and a new sweater from downtown."

Frowning, he asked, "What the hell's that mean?"

Sakura blushed, uncomfortable, and replied quietly, "That's what I was wearing the day he sent that message."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed. As a cop, he had a typical distaste for the common criminal, but few things worked his nerves harder than a guy who devoted time to stalking and scaring women. He could imagine how out of her mind this might make Sakura, having proof that she was being followed and watched but no idea how to stop it.

He dropped the card back into the box and rifled through the rest of the contents. Underneath the index cards were several Polaroids, all of them depicting Sakura at various times of the day. A few showed her working out at the gym, some depicted her laughing with friends, a couple of them documented her in a white labcoat hard at work in a laboratory. They were candids; she wasn't looking up in any of them and was clearly unaware she was being photographed in the first place.

"I need to take this to the station," he said, placing everything back in the hat box and closing the lid. "He didn't hand-write anything which makes it harder to trace."

"He's smart," Sakura murmured, crossing her arms again. "Really smart."

"I'll need you to come with me," he went on. "I have to take an official statement. I'm not sure if this is enough to get the RO for you since there's no solid evidence it was him who's doing this but I'll see what I can do."

Sakura blinked and he found himself weighted down by her heavy stare. It was impossible to gauge what was going through her mind as she studied him, and then she smiled.

"I promise I'm not usually this much trouble," she said wryly.

Sasuke smirked and lifted the hat box, nodding towards the door. "Not sure I believe you."

"I can't thank you enough for all your help," Sakura said when he took her back to her friend's house later that night. Her statement had been taken and the hat box with all of her ex-boyfriend's nefarious communication was currently being perused by the evidence department. If anything at all could be tied to Shi Fukuda, they would find it.

"'S my job, Miss," he replied airily, as he walked her up the steps.

"I know, but still."

They reached Naruto's front door and Sasuke paused, laying a gentle but hopefully professional hand on her shoulder. She turned back to look at him expectantly, and he was momentarily struck by the green of her eyes. They were streaked with gold and almost catlike, and vibrant even in the dim light of the hallway.

Pull yourself together, Romeo, he thought harshly. You've got a job to do.

"One of the detectives'll call you tomorrow with the info you need on the RO," he told her. "Stay with somebody you trust at all times till the paperwork goes through, same for the kid."

"Of course."

"If you feel like you're in any immediate danger, or if he tries to contact you again, you have my number. Use it."

Sakura smiled, small but very grateful, and tucked her bangs behind her ears almost shyly.

"Everything's been so stressful lately," she said softly, "and you've been such a help. And I know it's your job before you say it again. But seriously. You have no idea how much I appreciate all this."

Sasuke couldn't believe the thoughts running through his head, but at the moment, he wanted nothing more in the world than to kiss her. If you discounted the fact that she was being systematically stalked by a sinister ex-boyfriend and he was paid to protect her, it almost felt like he was bringing her home after a date. He'd enjoyed what snippets of her personality he'd been able to see underneath all of her stress and worry, even had a few laughs, and now it felt like the proper way to end the evening was to pull her in by that tiny waist of hers and…

You're out of your fuckin' mind, he thought, completely horrified by himself. He needed to leave before he did something he would regret, like kiss her and subsequently force her to rescind her trust and gratitude towards him.

"Just be careful," he said stiffly, with a quick nod of his head. "…Miss."

"Sakura," she corrected, and when he glanced back at her on his way out of the building, he found her looking back at him and smiling.

"Did you get anything?" Sasuke asked.

Izumo's fingers swept across the keyboard as he searched through the police database. He didn't look up from his research as he replied, "Not much. No priors, he's not in the system. Graduated from KU two years ago but beyond that, nothin'."

"Hn. The vic said there was a big fight between them that got him fired, any way we can get ahold of the boss?"

"Where was it at?"

"She works at the university lab."

"I can put a call in, see if we can dig up any info on him from whoever was in charge. Maybe they'll be able to tell us where this guy scampered off to, I can't even get an address. Sounds like your vic doesn't know what happened to him after the big breakup."

Sasuke frowned and folded his arms, leaning against Izumo's desk and deep in thought. "She's pretty scared. Whoever this guy is, it looks like he's escalating."

Izumo finally tore his gaze away from the computer screen, and he said slowly, "You know kid don't take this the wrong way or anything, but it's almost two AM and you went off-duty six hours ago."

"Your point?" Sasuke asked a little defensively.

"Just that it's a little out of character for you to get so invested in a case. 'Specially one as cut-and-dry as an ex-boyfriend who can't get over his girlfriend. Not the kind of client you're typically…"

"It's not my job to pick and choose which people in the city need help," Sasuke interjected, arrogant and self-righteous to conceal his anger at how easy he was to read. "I'm goin' home. Call me if you get anything on him."

Before Izumo could make another stupid observation, Sasuke seized his jacket and left the precinct, heading down to his motorcycle parked in the police lot. Officers only used squadcars when on duty; when off the clock, Sasuke drove a bike that made his mother out of her mind with worry.

There was almost nodody left on the streets, which made for a quick and peaceful ride home. It was a little colder than he would have liked but he hardly had time to notice the temperature, his thoughts swirling around everything that had happened that day and everything that might happen tomorrow.

Had he really been that obvious?

Izumo was right; it wasn't normal behavior for Sasuke to spend an extra six hours with a victim unless absolutely necessary. Usually he would take her statement and shunt her off to somebody else, not escort her personally around town, interrogate her for information, and linger around the precinct waiting for more intel. Sasuke knew the dangers involved in getting too involved in a case.

But there was something about Sakura that he wanted to see more of. He knew almost nothing about her besides the fact that she was experiencing a bit of bad luck at the moment, but besides the obvious – she was pretty, she was smart, and she was funny – there was something that he deeply admired. Her readiness to step up to the plate and take in a child that wasn't hers, her willingness to put her own dreams on hold for the baby's sake, the lengths she was going to in order to keep them both safe…all of that appealed to him.

He sighed, frustrated. This…attraction was most inopportune; as far as he was concerned, Sakura redefined the phrase "off-limits." Everything about her practically screamed that getting involved with a guy just wasn't an option right now: the tragic death of her best friend, her unexpected motherhood, the fact that her last boyfriend was a psycho stalker…but Sasuke couldn't turn this bizarre feeling off.

His mother would call it "love at first sight," but he was more practical than that. He was…


And maybe, he thought with a self-deprecating smirk as he parked his bike in front of his place, maybe that's just as bad.

note.. hey :) okay so sakura's ex-boyfriend is shi. his name's 'C' in the anime but i can't really make that work organically in an AU story so i'm calling him 'shi' because that's how you pronounce it. also since C doesn't have a last name, and i needed him to, i gave him the last name of his voice actor lolz. such a pain in the ass, i know. but i picked him because he's in the same field as sakura in the manga and a total dick imho. i don't like using OCs if i can help it: y'alls ain't here for anything but naruto.

anyway hope you liked it, let me know if you did! if you didn't, you really don't have to tell me, i don't care.

xoxo daisy :)