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Friday, May 16, 2008


Genre: Drama

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. The decision of who gets to be with who should better be left in the hands of the creator Kishimoto-sensei. shudders I don't want to decide.

Author’s Note: A one-shot Naruto fic! I try to keep it OOC—oops, I mean IC. chuckles nervously Anyway…You could consider this a NarutoxSakuraxSasuke friendship! The flashback part was inspired when I saw in the manga Sakura watching Sasuke sleep (I think in Volume 18?). This takes place much later—this is the second battle between Itachi and Sasuke.

This is the SECOND revised version. ; I finally read Volume 17 (I had only read the manga summaries before)… Itachi is WAY OOC in this fic, so I’m changing bits and pieces of this story.

Title: Living

Author: Kenhime

Her battle was finished.

Sakura drew out a long tired sigh as she threw her enemy’s bloodied kunai to the side. She wiped the blood at her mouth with the back of her hand as she trudged on. She didn’t look back at her fallen opponent; instead, her eyes found a very beaten-up Naruto barely standing from his own fight.

“Naruto!” she went to his side, hands unconsciously reaching to steady him. The blond-haired ninja smiled up at her, cerulean eyes twinkling triumphantly. He didn’t have to tell her he had won.


“You’re hurt badly, Naruto. You should rest, you idiot,” she chided, but he knew she was secretly concerned.

He chuckled weakly, “Not until Sasuke’s battle ends…” However, despite his struggle to stay conscious, Naruto fell forward, haziness overcoming his mind until it was completely black. Sakura caught him and called his name, but he couldn’t respond. To her relief, however, when she checked his pulse, he was still breathing.

“Eh…you idiot…” she muttered as she set him down near a tree.

He tries too hard and he gets hurt all the time. …But…he’ll be all right, in the end. An unwilling smile crept up her lips. And he’ll be always grinning at me and Sasuke-kun after. Naruto...

The sound of crushed wood brought her attention back to the last battle. She stepped forward as she made out Sasuke’s battered form thrown against the tree in the flying dust. Her fingers ached to reach for her kunai at her side, but this was his battle, not hers. Those fingers curled into an angry fist, her sense of helplessness mounting every moment. It was stupid to think she would be able to go against the infamously powerful Uchiha Itachi, but she couldn’t help the motherly instinct to protect Sasuke. Naruto would have wanted to interfere with the fight as well. Her heart torn, she gazed at the two figures in the distance...

Two boys, not even men…two brothers, not even strangers, and yet…

"Is this the strongest you can give me?"

Her eyes swerved to scrutinize Itachi, trying to figure out what was in his mind. A breath got caught in her throat. Was she seeing things? Underneath the cold fiery of his loathing gaze, there was...something akin to compassion as he looked as his younger brother.

If he loves him...why does he want his own brother to kill him?

The boy struggled to stand up from the broken tree, his hand covering a newly opened wound at his side. He brushed the irritating raven locks of hair away from his scarlet eyes, the three black circles of his lineage spinning wildly in them. The two of them locked gazes with each other, Sharingan against Sharingan.

“No...This time, I won't fail, Itachi," he rasped out.

“I had waited for this…” The former Anbu captain’s stony countenance taunted his angry little brother. With a smooth flick of a hand, he drew out a kunai. He spun it around with a finger, watching as Sasuke withdrew his own weapon.

The pink-haired ninja trembled, fearing what would happen, but she forced herself to stand up and watch bravely.

This…is what Sasuke-kun wanted.

Sometime ago…

Fingers graced pale cold cheeks and brushed away sable bangs. Sad emerald eyes traced his sleeping form. The wooden chair creaked as she shifted slightly closer to the bed.


“Will he be all right?” she asked without turning her head. Naruto appeared from the shadows of the room, arms crossing over his chest.

“Aa,” he replied quietly.

“Thank goodness…” A pause. “How’s Kakashi-sensei?”

“He’s sleeping, but he’ll wake up soon.” Her teammate walked to the door. He didn’t look back. “I’m going to train.”

Sakura bowed her head. “Aa. Bye.” The door opened and then closed shut.

He’s worried… But the feeling of unable to protect his friends is stronger than that. I could feel his pain, his desire to become stronger. Like me.

"He had found the man he wanted to kill, but the man was too powerful."

Sakura looked over her shoulder in surprise; she didn't sense a third presence. It revealed to be the enigmatic Kurenai, one of the ninjas present at the battle against Itachi.

"Of course you couldn't see me," Kurenai replied, as if reading her mind. "I am a Jounin, after all."

She gave a grim glance at the boy in the bed. "He was foolish, trying to fight him. ...Or perhaps, just too emotional. I'm disappointed. That is not the way of a ninja."

Sakura stiffened, her hand tightening on his arm. "The way of a ninja is up to him to decide. Emotions have kept us alive, thus far, Kurenai-sensei. You mustn't make light of us."

"I'm not making light. Things are not as easy as it once was. Feelings had him almost killed."


"But..." As the female jounin opened the door, a self-depreciating smile lifted the corners of her thin mouth. "I could be wrong. Kakashi's kids could prove the way of the ninja wrong..."

Then she left, leaving Sakura to look at the door in wonder.

But she drew her thoughts back to her friend, biting her lip in worry. Why would he want to go so far as to die to fulfill his wish? Isn't his life important to him? ...Is he really so lonely that he wants to die? It's...too sad...

"Oh..." Sasuke’s mouth partially opened, whispering words incoherently. She dropped her head closer to his, straining her ears. The tips of her pink hair tickled his face.


Older brother? Her brow furrowed in confusion. She listened for more.

“Why…why did you kill... Why…?” he murmured sleepily. Suddenly his obsidian eyes flew open, terrifyingly clear. Sakura leaned back on her chair, startled.


“Why do I have to kill you?” The lucid voice broke through the stillness. The young chuunin shook, enraged and hurt at the same time. Sakura reached her hand out to him, but he fell back on his pillow, sleep overtaking him once more.

She grew still. The man he wanted to kill was his own brother. Tears welled up her eyes. It was his brother who massacred the Uchiha clan...

"Loneliness...It's a level of pain different from being yelled at by your parents." Her hand covered his, her warmth driving the iciness of his fingers away.

"Goals...I rather call it an ambition...To kill a certain man."

"At that time...I was crying. My..." Teardrops spotted the old brown blanket.

I can feel his pain...his struggle...his isolation. Naruto's the same...except his brash and cheerful nature hides it. It's no wonder he understands Naruto more than I do... It's no wonder I felt left out, being the girl who had what they lacked. Is this why I don't strive as hard as they do? But...

"I think...I think I understand you now...” she said hesitatingly, lifting his hand to touch her cheek. "...Even if you can't hear’re not suffering alone."

Please let me share your pain. If I only could give some of what I have to you...

"You’re not alone…Naruto and I are here—we are your friends—your family. You just can’t leave us, not with all we had been through…” She closed her eyes tightly. “Please…don't...don't die, if not for your sake, then for us...”

People need you. Naruto needs you. I need you. When you fight, remember us, remember that you have us. Dying won't make us happy. Please don't throw your life away like this again...I'll cry and Naruto will--Naruto will... She couldn't help but to grin. He'll kick your ass.

It was what felt like a century before she decided to leave. She took a deep shaky breath and placed his hand back on the bed. The chair scratched the wooden floor as she stood up. Slowly, Sakura took out her kunai, gazing at it for some long moments. It gleamed in the dark.

For the sake of those two, I must become stronger. If I want to protect them too, I need to be stronger.

Then the kunoichi glanced at her friend and smiled serenely, no trace of her crying to be seen.

“I’m going to train, Sasuke-kun.”


His name fell out of her pale lips, a small whisper that caught the wind and reached his ears. Sasuke glanced at her. Sakura wasn’t crying, yelling, nor was she waving back at him—she was smiling. If it wasn’t for his eye ability, he wouldn’t be able to see the small sad smile.

Sakura’s…a little different today. It’s a relief she won against that man.

Then he saw Naruto and had to snort. The total moron was out cold next to her, but doubtlessly, from the stupid grin on the idiot’s face, he must have defeated his opponent.

What good would it do if you win the battle but pass out too? Dimwit.

When he turned his head back, he realized that this was the first time he broke his focus on battle.

A chuckle escaped from him. Maybe that would be the last time he would ever see them. He was planning to take the bastard down with him anyway. "I'm going to make sure we're going to have a family reunion, Itachi," he smirked as he wiped the blood off his face.

"Let's see if you can, Sasuke." Itachi rushed forward so quickly that to the naked eye, he couldn't be seen. Sasuke was taken back by the speed and barely parried the kunai thrust at him. If it wasn't for the Sharingan, he would have lost an arm. He could see his brother's smirking face as the kunai disappeared and reappeared to attack another place.

This's impossible to math!

There seemed to be no opening for attack. All Sasuke could do was dodge and block the attacks, but it was tiring him out more than he already was.

"I was jealous of you." Sasuke was startled by his brother's calm and quiet voice. It seemed to surround him all around.

"What?" he growled out as a few Shuriken whizzed by his shoulder.

"As the future head of the clan, I went through hell. I became genin at age seven, a chuunin a year later, and then an anbu captain at age thirteen." Itachi murmured. "Who would have thought my younger brother would graduate at twelve?"

"I don't get what you're saying," the younger replied through clenched teeth.

Where could he be? Dammit, I can't attack!

"I hated Father and I never knew Mother. But you…you didn’t have to deal with that. You were the younger child. You had a childhood I never got to have, and two parents who thought you were a son and I a monster!" his voice grew furious and the attacks came harder and faster.

Sasuke was bombarded by his brother's kunai from all sides, the sharp knife cutting him from the head down to his legs. It was more excruciating than the needles Haku had thrown at him. Through the whirlwind of attacks, he could see his brother's eyes, dull and dark just like that painful day. What was he thinking?

Sasuke screamed from the overload of blows, releasing wild chakra from his entire body. The strong burst of energy knocked the kunai out of Itachi's hand and violently shoved the elite ninja to the floor feet away. The loss of control over chakra left the boy shaking and collapsing to his hands and knees. A sticky metallic-tasting liquid pooled at his throat and he coughed it out, his blood spraying onto the dirt ground.

Sakura dared not to cry out in fear of interrupting the battle, but she knew the amount of chakra Sasuke drew out took a toll on his body. He wouldn't be able to hold out in the battle. Clasping her hands close to her heart, she prayed for his life.

Itachi stood up. "You're running out of chakra. You won’t be able to use the Sharingan any longer."

"I--I won't give up," Sasuke choked out as he looked up at him. He managed to get up and throw his brother's kunai back. "I'm not going to face our parents without you."

“Then," the jounin caught the flying kunai, "shall we end this?”

"Yes, let it end." The younger ninja threw his kunai aside and dropped into a jutsu stance. He barely had enough chakra to execute his next attack, a technique he had saved for last. His fingers formed into three seals, energy building up around his right hand.

This is where our path together ends, Naruto…Sakura.

Battles cries shook the air as two figures charged at each other. Memories and voices flashed through his mind as Sasuke rushed forward.

“Why did you save me? I don’t need your help!” The chakra cackled like a thousand birds.


“Don’t you want to be stronger than the one you want to kill?” His feet sprinted even faster, cutting through the wind with his beyond-human speed.

“If you give into hatred, Sasuke, you won’t defeat Itachi.”

“Your eyes are like mine, full of loneliness.” The three circles in his crimson eyes spun faster.

“Don’t—don’t die.”

He was startled out of his reverie. He never recalled hearing those words, but the voice seemed so familiar, as if it was calling him back.


He screamed harder as he met Itachi. His hand came rushing through, the intense light of Sasuke’s chakra blinding everything. Sakura shut her eyes tight.

“Thank you…Sasuke.” Itachi’s face remained expressionless, but blood trickled down his mouth.

Sasuke was quiet; his dark bangs shadowed his eyes. His hand had cut right through Itachi’s abdomen while the older ninja’s kunai was barely wedged into his own side. It didn’t even hit a critical point.

“I killed them…” Itachi’s trembling hands circled his wrist, keeping Sasuke’s hand lodged in his stomach. “I killed them all because I needed to lose my only weakness. And I left you alive…because…”

“You wanted me to kill you,” the younger brother replied, looking up. His eyes were back to brooding obsidian. “Now I’m the last of the clan.”

“Revive the clan; don’t let it die out... And…I—won’t get to see them."


"Because I'll be in hell," A tiny smile lifted the corners of his thin mouth. Sasuke’s eyes widened. "I'm not planning to see you dead anytime soon either. They're waiting for you."

There was silence, before a quiet, "I know."

“Farewell, Sasuke…” His hands fell limply to his sides.

“Aa…” The surviving brother glanced down at his hands, the warm crimson liquid oozing down his wrists and dropping to the floor. How long had he desired this? How long had he lived miserably, surviving only to kill him? He pulled his hand out and caught his dead brother by the shoulders. He set him down and brushed a hand over his lifeless eyes, closing them. At last, he would never see those taunting, sickening red eyes again.


Itachi glanced over his shoulder to find Sasuke standing behind him.

“Today, you were going to teach me Shuriken jutsu…” There was disappointment in his tone.

“I was busy…” the other replied. “Besides, Father is a good teacher.”

“But your way of throwing them is the best. Even I know that.” He looked down. “You always act as if I’m a burden to you.”

Itachi gestured him to come over and Sasuke padded forward. Suddenly two fingers pushed him back by the forehead. His older brother’s ebony eyes twinkled in amusement as he spoke softly.

“Forgive me, Sasuke. Next time, okay?”

The younger brother felt a tinge of displeasure and bewilderment at his brother’s strange way of apologizing, but it quickly disappeared when he looked at his brother. There was something in his thoughts, something dark Itachi was brooding about. Sasuke cocked his head, failing to understand what his brother was going through.

“I can’t take care of you today,” said Itachi as he stood up from his seat on the front stairs.

The little boy rubbed his forehead, frowning. “Every time I ask you, you would always say, ‘Forgive me, Sasuke,’ and then poke me on the forehead. Then you would say, ‘Not today.’”

The older boy didn’t reply as he left the room. Despite that, Sasuke smiled.

How could I not realize what was going on? He…the reason why he never taught me was because he wanted me to grow up as a normal kid—not a prodigy. How could I not see his eyes? No…my brother didn’t kill them to measure his power…he wanted to destroy those he loved because it was a sign of weakness.

But in the end, he had lost the strength of…the heart. That…was why he kept me alive for…

A teardrop fell on the pale face of Itachi.

To force me to live…To gain what he lost…

I had never hated you, brother… I couldn’t, even when we were younger. I just—just never understood you.


Now I’m the only one of my family. The very thing that had kept me standing to this day is now gone. …But…

He didn't need to look to know she was standing next to him. Sakura bent down next to him and touched Itachi's arm.

"Arigatou gozaimasu, Itachi-san," was what she said.

I think it's not as hard as it used to be. I...I can keep on living.

"Sasuke-kun, are you all right?"

"Aa... " he lied, swaying back and forth with dizziness until he fell to the floor.

Sakura shook her head, a relieved smile crossing her lips. "You can be such an idiot like Naruto sometimes."

When Sasuke came to, he found himself leaning against a tree next to Naruto. He blinked, his vision adjusting to the afternoon light. He saw Sakura bending over Naruto, wiping his face with a torn piece of her dress. "S-Sakura?"

She glanced at him, "Finally, one of you woke up."

He looked down at the bandage that was wrapped around his side. "T-thank you..."

"It's nothing. We better get going. I couldn't carry nor leave you, so I waited for you guys to come around."

"...How long was I out?"

"For about five hours, at most. Not bad for a person who used up all his chakra." She shot a look at Naruto. "Unlike someone I know."

"He'll come around."

"I hope so," she muttered. "What are you going to do with your brother's corpse?"

"I'll have to leave it to the hunter-nin to find it. He was a dangerous criminal with many jutsus; I can't bury him."

"True..." she replied, though she winced at the thought of the birds eating away at the organs. They were silent for a few moments before she turned her head to him and smiled.

"Let's...let's go home, ne?"

A pause, then a small smile. “Aa.”

“Can you walk by yourself?”


“Are you sure? Because I’ll need some help with this idiot. He’s too heavy.”

“It’s fine.” They walked over to their unconscious teammate at the tree. The two of them took one arm each and hauled him down the forest path like a piece of luggage. Of course, the discomfort of his behind being scraped on the floor woke the blond ninja with a painful start.

“HEY! Is this how you carry your loved one!?”

Both of them replied in unison, “Who said we loved you?”

“This is really a great way to carry your teammate,” Naruto growled. “Let me go.” They released their grip immediately and his head collided with the ground. “NOT LIKE THAT!”

“That's what you get for passing out, you total moron,” Sasuke deadpanned.

“Shaddup, Sasuke!” Naruto picked himself up, rubbing his bruised head. He caught up with the other two. As they walked, the orange-clad ninja kept on glancing at his friend with a peculiar expression on his face.

The irritated Sasuke looked at him in askance. “What do you want, you total moron?”

“Ano sa…” Naruto sheepishly smiled back. “I’m glad.”


Sakura smiled. “Me too.”

Feeling oddly left out, Sasuke frowned. “You are all idiots.”

“Perhaps, but you’ll understand,” Sakura patted him on the shoulder. “Well...Sasuke, what are you going to do now?”

“I don’t—“ he paused and shot her a strange look.


“N-nothing.” His gaze shifted to the clear skies above him. It seemed like what happened earlier this morning didn’t happen at all. I thought after killing him would be difficult and painful, but now it’s just a sense of closure. It’s odd…to feel somewhat content. “I don't really know...except someday I'll resurrect my clan.”

Sakura turned beet red. “I could help you…with, you know, resurrecting your clan.”

“What!? How about me, Sakura-chan?”

“You’re annoying!” she glared at Naruto, threatening him with her fist for his untimely interruption. Sudden gloominess dropped on the usually jubilant ninja at the rejection as he trudged on.

“Why is it always Sasuke, Sasuke, Sasuke? What’s so good about him anyway?” he muttered. When he saw Sasuke’s expression, however, he fell over. “Unbelievable! He’s—he’s—”

“How cute!” Sakura exclaimed. “Sasuke-kun, you’re blushing!”

“N-no, I’m not…”

Author’s Note: I finally got the whole manga up to the latest chapter! XD I was so happy when I got to the Itachi volume, but then found the guy to be completely different from my depiction…so I had to change some things. The one error I didn’t fix was the chidori attack Sasuke did. In the manga, Sasuke use it against Itachi, so technically, the chidori would be useless against the powerful Sharingan user for the second time. But Sasuke doesn’t have any other powerful technique different from the ones used by his clan…so I couldn’t do anything about it.

Itachi…is not a bad guy at all… The look in his eyes are so intense…they have a sense of humanity about them—not that cynical venomous look Orochimaru has. (I love those flashbacks in Volume 17 ...)

But yeah…makes you wonder, who was Sasuke blushing for? The question lingers…

It’s hard not to be biased with all the pairings though. I tried really hard to make it a friendship thing. I hope no one was disappointed with the fact that there were no pairings even until the very end.

But I think it’s leaning a little to the Sasuke/Sakura thing. I am such a total moron.

Gah, me and my overactive wild imaginations.

¬¬ I’m not the only one, though.

Despite my rambling, I hoped you like it! Please kindly review!

To the Theme of Rain

Title: To the Theme of Rain
Author: Snapped Chopstick
Rating: R
Pairing: Iruka/Naruto
Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, but this story is.
Summary: Iruka, Naruto, a rainy day, and a warm bed.
A/N: This is my favourite Naruto yaoi pairing. And, um, no one else writes it. This is just another quickie one-shot by me, so I've no expectations of it. The setting is, quite honestly, more of an AU than canon. Having difficulty slashing these two without making Iruka seem like a paedophilic pervy. So, at any rate, suffice it to say that this is an AU in which Naruto (older than 12!) and Iruka are living together, it's raining, and that's all you really need to know.

The rain hadn't ended it's monopoly of the sky for several days now. The farmers were quite fretful over their crops, the streets were thick and muddy at best, and the elders chanted and prayed for the seemingly endless torrent of water to cease.

There had been a town meeting scheduled for the residents to discuss what was to be done about this vast amount of rain, but it had been cancelled; no one could make it out of their house without being bogged down by wet weight. They would hurry back into their houses, muttering complaints and wringing out their clothes. A few brave (or foolish) ones cursed the gods for bringing this upon them.

In a small apartment near the edge of town, there was a blonde boy who also lamented the rain.

"Dammit," Naruto muttered, glaring at the downpour as if his heated gaze could make it evaporate. "How am I supposed to practise my ninjutsu on a day like this?" He thrust one skinny - yet well-muscled - arm out the window, letting the dampness coat it and trickle off his fingers like tiny waterfalls.

He lifted his head when the scent of food reached his nostrils, tempting him to make his way to the kitchen. He gave in and did so, bare feet silent on the old wooden floor, the quiet dripping of water from his hand the only audible sound coming from him. Pausing at the doorway, Naruto looked at the man bent over the stove; a pot simmering contentedly, and the man stirring it.

"Ramen?" Naruto offered hopefully, his eyes squinted shut as he concentrated on the delicious smell. He hesitated for a moment, then slipped into the kitchen and placed his hand on the small of Iruka's back.

The man looked over his shoulder at Naruto, eyes lit up in a smile. "Yeah, of course. Beef."

Grinning, Naruto leaned into Iruka, rubbing his forehead against the thin material of the man's shirt like a grateful animal. Iruka merely chuckled.

They ate their dinner in peace, Naruto slurping his noodles rather noisily and stabbing at the pieces of beef with his chopsticks. Iruka too would slurp occasionally, but for the most part he was polite. He smiled whenever Naruto's foot brushed against his leg.

When the dishes had been left in soapy water to soak, it was by mutual unspoken consent that they went back to their bedroom and stared out the tiny window at the rain together. Naruto leaned into Iruka. "Stupid rain," he said, feeling sullen. He closed his eyes as he felt the man's arm come around his shoulder. He knew what Iruka wanted, for he wanted it just as keenly himself.

He kept his eyes open when his back hit the bed, making sure not to bump noses awkwardly (even after all this time, they were still apt to do that) when he leaned up to kiss Iruka. Iruka tasted like the ramen they had both consumed; ramen and the hot, human taste of saliva.

Naruto moaned and squirmed as Iruka moved down, teeth catching his tanned flesh and nipping at it affectionately before applying firm suction. Naruto couldn't help but think about how that would leave a mark, and how he'd love looking at it in the mirror in the morning. He always liked the marks Iruka would put on him so adoringly.

Clothes were discarded upon the floor. They made no pretense to attempt to undress each other; instead, they went for efficiency and stripped themselves. Eagerly, Iruka curled his body around Naruto's and ran his hands up the boy's sides, brushing his thumbs over stiffening nipples. He leaned over and took one small nub into his mouth, grazing it with his teeth until he made Naruto whimper. "More," the blonde demanded, squirming.

Lips curled up in an unmistakable smile, Iruka slid his body against the boy's, savoring the feel of skin against skin, his hands clutching at Naruto's wrists. "How much?" he rumbled into Naruto's ear.

Blue eyes flashed mischievously before closing, a smile on the boy's lips like that of a cat. Or a fox. "I want everything." was all he said before he arched his back against the bedspread, toned legs wrapping around Iruka until he could hook his ankles together. "Everything," he murmured again. He felt Iruka touch his face gently, fingers so light they felt like a ghost's as they brushed over his lips. A slow, easy whisper from Iruka: "Whatever you want."

Outside, the rain continued on, unabated.



Hello, this is my first One- Shot Naruto fic. So PLEASE go easy on me okay? Ok, ok, I know.…’s fluff Watches as readers go to find another fic Hey! I wasn’t done yet.…... uses authoress powers to make the readers stop moving Hehe. Freezing powers. You gotta love em.

Well anyway, I know it’s fluff, but please R/R. It’s SasuNaru.…... Onegai big puppy dog eyes It’s not that bad I promise.


Author: sTaR SNipEr

It’s quiet. I guess I should expect that. I’m always up here on the roof, staring at the sky like it has the answers to all my questions. Always around two or three in the morning. I laugh a little. Since when was I a morning person? Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not. But to me, if the sun isn’t out, it’s still nighttime.

A sudden wind blows through my thin clothes and I curse myself for not wearing something warmer as I shiver. Or at least, that I had someone to keep me warm. Wait, where did that come from? Then, I realize, that’s one of the reasons I’m up here. Where were all these feelings coming from? And more importantly, who were they for?

“Cold?” comes a voice from behind me. I almost fall off in shock. The last time I checked, I was here, alone. I turn around to see the person who nearly scared me out of my wits. It was Sasuke. Wait a second...“ Why are you up?” I suddenly blurt out noting that’s it’s REALLY early in the morning and I thought I was the only one up anyway.

Although, I really didn’t mind at all. Maybe I could talk to Sasuke about my feelings. Maybe he’ll know what’s wrong with me. Would he? My mind asks me. Or will he just brush it off? I shook my head as Sasuke sat down next to me. “Same as you” he replied answering my first question. “I came think” he said softly.

“About what?” I asked him curiosity getting the best of me. Sasuke looked at me for a few seconds, smiled, then began to laugh. Okay, now I’m officially freaked out. Sasuke almost never smiles let alone laughs. He’s always the serious one. “Okay, who are you and what have you done with Uchiha Sasuke?” I say backing away from him and putting myself into a defense position. I also cross my fingers in front of my just in case. This only makes Sasuke laugh harder.

“Naruto, don’t worry it’s me, stop doing that” he said referring to my superstious ways then added “Dead-last.” I relaxed a little. Although Sasuke didn’t call me dead-last anymore, unless he was seriously pissed at me, it still made me feel better.

However, I eyed him before sitting back down next to him and laying my head down on his lap. I sighed. “I always know when it’s you,” I said softly. I was expecting him to flinch. If he did, this wasn’t Sasuke.

He didn’t. He just began to play with my hair. I sighed relief. “Finally believing it’s me?” Sasuke asked smirking in amusement. Now that’s better. That’s the Sasuke I know. “Yeah, jeez, you scare me sometimes Sasuke, one time you’re dead serious, the next you’re laughing like a normal person.” Sasuke eyed before asking. “So you don’t consider me ‘normal?’” he asked. I sat up immediately and shook my head.

“No, no, I didn’t say that” I said hoping he wasn’t mad at me. “It’s just, sometimes, you’re so...cold to people, and hearing you laugh is you know, not something the Sasuke I know wouldn’t do, that’s all. I didn’t say you were a freak or anything.”

Sasuke only shrugged and I lay back down on his lap. He smiled again and continued to toy with my hair. “Who did you think I was?” he asked. I shrugged. “Dunno, some evil demon from hell who was bent on killing me just because I’m the reincarnation of the demon fox” I replied then laughed at my own stupidity. “Sounds really idiotic don’t it?” I asked.

Sasuke only snorted. “Most everything you say and do is idiotic Naruto” he replied. “Hey!” I cried out sitting up again. “That’s not nice” I said and stuck out my tongue. Sasuke laughed a little. “All right, I’m sorry” he sat and motioned for me to sit down again. I was shocked. That’s another thing. Sasuke NEVER apologizes, not even if he’s forced to. He saw the look on my face and started to laugh again.

“Am I really that out-of-character?” he asked me. I nodded then stepped away from him. “Are you sure you’re okay?” I asked kinda scared now. Sasuke only shrugged. “I guess I am.” He replied. “Why? Do I scare poor little Naruto?” he asked in a mocking tone. “Hey!” I replied then got an evil idea. “I’m not letting you play with my hair anymore” I said and stuck out my tongue. “Hey, what does that have to do with anything?” Sasuke asked standing up, obviously startled. Hah, I knew it. Sasuke loves my hair. He says it’s soft, like the grass after the rain except that it’s not wet. Not unless he decides to dunk me in something.

“Chill Sas, I’m joking” I replied and sat down again. “Just be nice, I’m supposed to be up here alone anyway” Sasuke sat down next to me again. “So then, you want me to leave you alone?” he asked me. I almost sweatdropped. He never gets the message. “No, stay” I said simply and lay my head on his shoulder. “I like you company” I said

I don’t know what’s going on with me. One minute, I’m mad at him, the next, I forgive him. Then again, he’s acting pretty weird too. He’s showing his more, sensitive and...human side for a lack of a better word. Sasuke smiles softly and starts to play with my hair again. I guess he’ll never stop doing that. I don’t mind at all, it’s not the first time we’ve been close like this.

I really don’t know how, but under Kakashi, Sasuke and I, we’ve grown up a lot. Kakashi taught us about teamwork and how we should always look out for each other. Sasuke used to think that all he needed was himself and that no one could understand what he went through.

But...I understood. I know what it’s like to grow up without a parent’s love. I mean, Sasuke, he had his parents for a short while, but they were murdered. He had come home one day to find them like that; they bloody corpses lying motionless on the floor. I could never imagine coming home to that. I would’ve killed myself probably.

But Sasuke was strong. He lived thorough it all and vowed he’d restore his clan one day. I grew up without my parents my whole life, only with Sensei Iruka to take care of me. He was the only person who treated me with SOME respect and that meant a lot to me. I’ve never known, what it’s like to feel truly loved. And taking by the way Sasuke is to people, he hasn’t either.

I pity him sometimes. He was stripped of his childhood when he was very young. I still have mine. I refuse to let it go even if I have to hang onto it with teeth and nails. It’s the only left that makes me happy.

Well, that isn’t exactly true. Sasuke makes me happy. Really he does. Sunsets do too. I guess that’s how we became friends. Because we watched the sunset together. And that was the first time he’d really opened up to me.


“Okay, we’re done for the day” Kakashi said after he saw how beaten down we were from all our hard training. “You’re all improving greatly, I applaud your success.” Then he smiled at me. “Especially you Naruto, I think you’ve improved the most” I grinned then watched as Sakura and Kakashi disappeared to go eat dinner. I was about to too when I looked over the horizon and stopped.

The sun was setting. Now, that might not have been important to anybody else, but it was to me. I loved watching the sunset. It always made me feel calm, and happy that I was alive. Often, it felt better than playing pranks on the townspeople or even eating ramen. There was just something there, something that made me feel good about myself. Something that took all my worries away.

“Hey Naruto, what are you doing?” came Sasuke’s voice snapping me out of my thoughts. I turned to him and smiled a little. I saw his eyes widen a little and a small blush creep across his cheeks. “Isn’t it beautiful?” I whispered to him.

“What?” he asked me confused. I looked over the horizon again. “The sunset” I replied. When I turned back to him he still looked confused. He shrugged. “What’s so special about it?” My eyes widened. “You’re kidding! You mean you’ve never watched a sunset?” I asked shocked. Sasuke only shrugged. “Why should I?” he asked me again.

I grinned suddenly. “Come here” I said and pulled him across the field. “Naruto, what in se-” “Shh...Just be patient. I wanna take you somewhere” I replied grinning more than I ever had.

After, about, 10 minutes, I had dragged Sasuke through the woods and up a mountain trail. I stopped when we reached the top. I smiled Sasuke came up behind me, almost gasping for breath “Naruto, it’s getting dark, what are you...” he stopped. I knew why. I took him to my secret place. The place where I used to go off to watch the sunset. It was always so beautiful from here. I sat down and pulled Sasuke next to me. “Isn’t it beautiful?” I asked him for the second time this day.

I grinned when he looked at me and gave me a warm half smiled. “Yes, it is” he replied quietly and took be into his arms. I was surprised at first and it was a bit awkward, but as the sun set lower and lower into the horizon, I forgot about it. Eventually, somehow, my head was resting in his lap, and he was playing with my hair.

That’s when I noticed something. Sasuke was human. As human as me, and as human as anyone else.

End Flashback

I don’t know why but when I’m around Sasuke, I get this weird feeling in my stomach. Like there are butterflies there or something. When he plays with my hair, it makes me feel safe. Protected. Loved.

Whoa, where’d that come from? Does he really make me feel loved? Am I in love? I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. I’ve never been in love, and no one’s told me what it’s like. Yeah, I’ve heard all those cheesy romances where it’s ‘love at first sight’ but they just sound so...unreal. It makes you think that it’s nice to read about, but way to sappy and corny to be true.

“Naruto, are you okay?” comes Sasuke's warm and concerned voice. I look up at him and suddenly notice I’ve been spacing out. I nod slowly. “I’m fine” I replied softly. “I was just...thinking” I added quickly. “Oh” was all Sasuke said in return. The wind blew through our clothes again and I shivered. But I felt someone wrap their arms around me and I knew it was Sasuke. Call me crazy, but I can sort of ‘sense’ his warmth. I can tell that’ it’s him comforting me even if I were blind. He’s got a special way of holding me. And that’s one of the reasons why I feel so strongly towards him, I guess. Because, as crazy and corny as it sounds, I think that touch is there, just for me. And only me; nobody else.

If this is a dream, don’t’ wake me up. I want to stay in his arms forever. I don’t why; I’ve never felt this way towards anyone before. Well, I felt something like this when I first saw Sakura, but it wasn’t as strong as this. There’s something more to it. Something I can’t place my finger on, not even describe. Something that’s just there. Something that makes me feel safe.

“Naruto?” comes Sasuke’s voice again. I look up at him and nod. “Yeah?” I ask. He sighs. Then, after a few moments he asks me, “Have you ever been in love?”

I stumble back a little, shocked at what he just asked me. But I regain my composure and shrug. “No, not really. I mean, I used to like Sakura, still do, I guess, but no” I reply simply.

Sasuke’s eyes widened. “You like Sakura?” he asked me shocked. I shrugged again. “Ehh...I used to, you know how I was. I was really ignorant. Hey!” I cry out when I hear him laughing softly. “But you know” I add. “I consider more of a friend now that I know her better” I finished. Sasuke just sighed. Was that relief? I couldn’t tell. “Why?” I asked suddenly changing the subject. “Do you have someone? Huh? Is there someone special you’re not telling me about Sasuke?” I ask in a teasing voice. Sasuke only smiles then nods.

“Oh my god!” I almost shrieked. Suddenly, I forgot all my questions and feelings. To me, this was big news. “So who’s the lucky girl?” I asked. Yet, somehow, that struck me deep in a place I couldn’t really locate. I don’t know why it bothered me so much. Was I jealous? Was I scared I’d lose probably my only friend to a girl?

“Well?” I asked. “Who is she?” I said though now I really didn’t want to know. Sasuke just sighed then looked down. “There’s something I have to tell you first” he said quietly. “What?” I asked curiously and sat up. Sasuke sighed then said, “Promise you won’t freak?” I could tell he was afraid to tell me because his eyes showed a little bit of fear in them. Then I realized how important my opinion was to Sasuke. Do I really mean that much to him? I asked myself. I nodded. “I promise” I replied and meant it. I would respect whomever Sasuke loved, whoever or whatever she was.

Sasuke sighed again. He took a few deep breaths then bit his lip. I could tell this was hard for him, but I didn’t think it would be that hard. I didn’t try to pressure him; I knew he’d tell me eventually. And if he didn’t tonight, one night he will. I know it.

Finally, after what seemed forever Sasuke finally said, “The person I’m in love with... isn’t a woman.” I gasped. “You mean you’re gay?!” I cried out in shock and backed away form him. I didn’t mean to, but my body reacted faster than my mind could. But inside of me, something was hoping that it was true. Why was that? Did I love Sasuke? I shook my head. Since when was I gay? Then I realized something else. Sasuke was looking down at the floor and though they were hard to see, I saw tears falling down his face.

Oh shit I thought. I broke my promise “Sasuke...” I said quietly and move back closer to him so that I can give him comfort. “Gomen nasai, I broke my promise.” I whispered softly and hugged him tightly. Almost instantly, the tears disappeared and Sasuke looked up at me. Though he tried to hide it, it was obvious my reaction hurt him. “It’s okay, I expected you to react that way anyway” he replied to me.

I shook my head. “That’s not an excuse. I told you, I wouldn’t freak and I did. I’m not homophobic or anything Sasuke, honestly, I’m not. I mean, when I found out about Iruka and Kakashi...” Sasuke suddenly looked at me in shock. Then I realized, I slipped Oh shit, now I know one of them’s gonna be after my ass tomorrow I thought to myself. “Uh...I didn’t say anything, okay? Onegai? Promise you won’t tell?” I gave Sasuke time to calm down form his shock before he nodded.

I smiled. “Well, like I said, if you think I’m going to stop being you’re friend just because of which sex you prefer, you don’t know me that well, do you Sasuke?” I told him smiling a little. Sasuke’s eyes seem to sparkle as I said those words. “You mean it doesn’t bother you?” he asked me hopefully. I shook my head. “Sasuke, you’re the same person to me, whether you’re interested in girls or guys” I replied.

Sasuke just smiled and hugged me. I was shocked. Usually, I’m the one who hugs, and that’s not very often in the first place. But I hugged him back anyway, enjoying his embrace. “Arigatou” Sasuke said to me and looked at me like I was the greatest person in the world. “You don’t know how much that means to me” he added and hugged me tighter.” I grinned.

“So tell me,” I say changing the subject a bit. “What’s he like?” I asked. Sasuke released his hold of me then looked up to the stars and sighed. “He’s the loveliest creature that ever walked on this earth,” he said softly.

“He has the sun in his hair and the sea in his eyes. He has the wind in his breath, and the world at his feet. He has the innocence of a child but when he fights, he moves like a fox, dancing in the fiery flames,” he said. I gasped. I didn’t know Sasuke was a poet. They way he described was as if Sasuke’s lover had come from heaven and was a fallen angel.

Suddenly, I wanted to know who it was that had claimed Sasuke’s heart. And why he made the boy in front of me feel the way he did? Was he really that beautiful? I wanted to know what Sasuke saw in him. “Do I know him?” I asked inquisitively. Sasuke looked at me and smiled. “You know him very well Naruto” he replied and continued to describe his mystery lover.

“He has dreams of becoming the next Hokage. He runs wild and free in the wilderness, never caring about the downfalls in life and living his always to the fullest. He wants people to hear his name and acknowledge his presence. He wants to be strong but I always used to think he would be dead-last.” Suddenly, I gasp. Dead-last my mind said. Sasuke called only me that. Could it be? Was Sasuke talking about me?

“Can you guess who he is, Naruto?” Sasuke said softly and looked down, refusing to meet my gaze. Then he whispered almost inaudibly, “He was my first kiss” Right then and there I knew he was talking about me. Suddenly, I wave of emotions just hit me. Like a tsunami was tearing through my heart, nearly ripping everything in its path.

“Sasuke...” I whispered breathlessly to him. He continued to look down. My hands grasped his face and I forced him to look at me. That’s when I saw it. All the love in his eyes. Everything he had probably been holding back from me until this point. Everything he wouldn’t tell me because of fear of rejection.

But I couldn’t reject him. I realized now what all thee emotions I were feeling were all about. I realized I was in love. I was in love with Sasuke Uchiha. I knew the feelings I would get in my stomach were. I knew why I felt safe when I was with him. Because I trusted him. Because I cared for him. Loved him. I leaned closer and suddenly; the small distance between us was no more.

His mouth was like fire. He kissed me back with a passion I never knew in my life before. I felt his tongue dart out and slide across my lips begging for entry. I complied and opened my mouth completely, letting him explore its regions. In a few moments, he’s memorized it all. When we pull away for breath, I smiled and leaned on his shoulder.

“I guess I know what all these feelings I’d been having are now” I whispered then nuzzled his neck. His eyes widen. “Are you saying...?” he started but I put a finger to his lips. “Shh...” I said quietly and removed my finger. “Don’t speak,” I said quickly when Sasuke opened his mouth to speak. “Don’t say a thing” I added and embraced him tightly. He smiled and once again, ran his finger through me hair, obviously enjoying it.

In the distance, a streak of light peeked over the distance. I smiled. This would be our first sunrise to watch together. Perfect. “Ai shiteru Sasuke” I whispered then fell asleep, exhausted in his arms. But I felt them wrap themselves tightly around me as he whispered in my ear, “Ai shiteru Naruto” and kissed me lightly on the head.

And then I smiled as the warm rays slowly crept across my face

I had finally found love. And I was happier than I’d ever been in my entire life

I said this once before but I’m happy to say it again

I love you...Uchiha Sasuke.

Ugh... I must wash out my mouth with soap. I can’t believe I wrote this!! Me, the YGO queen of angst!! Well, sort of anyway. I’m a pretty intense writer. Oh well, I hope this wasn’t too bad R/R.

Naibu no ano Tsukiyo (Inside the Moonlight)

K: UU; We’re sick AGAIN, so we decided we’d better update before we keel over or pass out from exhaustion….

Y: That, and we finally watched the end of Lain (which makes no sense- she’s software?), have listened to Naruto episodes 9-12 (or so), and tried, TRIED to fix our f-ing DivX player (which STILL won’t work… both sob), so we figured we’d write something after thinking up an interesting screen caption for a pic our friend e-mailed us…. both drool at the thought of SasuNaruness

Dai: rolls eyes and winks readers Here’s the screen cap they came up with:

Rock: Ne, Sakura-chan... Let's chat sometime over tea, ne? Ne?

Sasuke: peeks out through door Oro? blink blink

Naruto: offscreen behind the door, his usual orange jacket tied around his waist loosely (so he's looking punkish in his orange pants and white sleeveless undershirt) and is holding Sasuke's hand impatiently Well, is it working! All of us would LOVE fanart of that! Onegai? puppy eyes

Sasuke: whispers fierecely him Urusei- you'll give us away! looks back over his shoulder And yes, it's working- Lee'll drag her around, regardless of what SHE wants, for hours now... hentai grin

Naruto: puts on a grin to match Yosha! leans in to kiss Sasuke

Sasuke: leans in to kiss Naruto

Ino: walks in through the other class door Sasuke-kun are you in- sees them lip-locked WHAT THE F&!

Sasu/Naru: part and stare at her, then state as one Shit...

Dai: bursts out laughing XDDD

Sasu/Naru: blush beet red

K/Y: ANYHOO, on with the story!

Disclaimer: We dun own Naruto-tachi or “In the Moonlight” (from Gravitation). It sucks, we know… UU; UU; (Cuz if WE owned either, it’d be shonen ai heaven! 0 0)

Dedication: To Kandisu-chan, aka ChibiHusky. Arigato for everything! wide, cheesy Yoh grins These are your favorites, ne? (Gomen- no hentai! XP XP too shy to write it!)

Warnings: Shonen ai, randomness, profanity (most likely us, not the fic.. though there COULD be some…), and any other random crap we can’t remember right now cuz’ it’s 12:30 in the morning….

Directions: Insert the lyrics to "Inside the Moonlight" from Gravitation.

Naibu no ano Tsukiyo

(Inside the Moonlight)

Author: Ko-chan to Ya-chan

A young boy sighed deeply, staring out his bedroom window. The harvest moon was round and full, bathing the sleepy ninja village in an ethereal glow. The view was breathtaking, and yet, the boy still found himself troubled. What on earth could be distracting him at a time like this, you ask? Tis’ not ‘what’, par say, but who.
-insert 1st stanza-
The problem was, whenever he gazed upon that bright, orange orb hanging lazily in the sky, he would think of him, and the night much like this that they’d shared together- not as rivals, but as friends, maybe closer. The tangy orange luster reminded him of the other’s choice in clothing, always one to stand out in a crowd. The brilliance of the moon shone like the halo on his golden head, and, he thought, that must prove he was an angel. The stars…

The stars reminded him of the rare, precious moments when he could see those deep, blue eyes of his. The ones he could get lost in for all eternity, and never regret it. Those beautiful, sparkling orbs that he hardly had the chance to see before they closed themselves to him, cutting him off from the sweet, alluring sense of security; of assurance that no matter what, his love would never change for the worse.

The same eyes that burned with a fiery passion whenever he spoke of his dreams. The eyes that would become dull when sad, or light up with the promise of something good to come. The eyes that showed not one speck of hesitation when he’d told him he didn’t hate him anymore, that he was his most treasured friend.

-insert 2nd stanza-
He remembered, as if it had only been a few moments prior- his angel had gazed up at the sky as the stars came out, one by one. They’d been sitting on the roof, trying to avoid Sakura, whom had been after them for leaving the bath in much disarray after a small war over the last of the shampoo. As she stomped around beneath them, the blonde had suddenly stood up, walking to the edge. There, he’d let himself loosen up and closed his eyes, smiling softly as the light wind played across his face.

“I’ve never just sat and enjoyed it before…” he’d commented softly, “I’ve always liked the sun more, ya know?”

He’d turned to him, eyes warm and content, and had asked, “Which do you like best, Sasuke?”

His companion pondered this for a bit, then settled on his choice. “I like both.”

The fox-boy pouted, sticking out his tongue playfully. “Mou- I said one!”

He’d just shaken his head, a small smile tugging at his lips. “Iya- you asked me which I prefer, and I like both. Either of them remind me of my favorite thing, and to me, that’s all that matters.”

Naruto had grinned dumbly, plopping down next to the other. That was when he’d realized he’d slipped.

“And just what would that be, Mr. I-don’t-like-anything?”

There was no use in lying, but that didn’t mean he had to tell the whole truth, either. “Someone I know…”

There had been a small silence, and then- “Well, are you going to tell me who?”

“… Maybe, when the time is right…”

“Oh, so you think I’m not ready to know? Is that it?” the other had growled, taking the offensive.

“It’s not that you’re not ready, it’s if I’M ready to tell…”

“That’s just like you, you jerk… Always dodging the question like that…” the blonde angel had scoffed, then smiled as he leaned against his side. “Then again, that’s what I like about you- you’re always willing to listen to me bitch…”

With that, he’d closed his eyes again, lying back so that his head rested on Sasuke’s thigh. “Arigato, ichiban tomodachi…” thank you, my #1 friend

The raven-haired boy sighed once more, gazing around at the empty room behind him. A best friend… Was that all he was to him?

-insert 3rd stanza-
He thought back to the week after, when Naruto had lusted after a beautiful young woman, only to find out ‘she’ was in town to enter the national drag queen competition. Sakura had made a wisecrack about how Naruto should enter, using his ‘temptation no jutsu’ as a guaranteed win, and they’d all laughed as the blonde had scowled darkly at them. His laughter had been hallow, though- for in his heart, he couldn’t bear to see the other made fun of. The both of them had been scarred emotionally more than their fair share in this lifetime, and neither needed it from their ‘so-called’ friends…

Laughing at him like that- it made him feel like a snake; like a traitor and a backstabber…

-insert 4th and 5th stanzas-
And yet, he’d forgiven him, just like always. He’d plastered that wide, toothy grin on his face, clapping him on the back and assuring him that he knew he hadn’t meant it. Still, somewhere deep inside, he knew the boy was hurting, that the pain wasn’t as nonexistent as he’d claimed it to be….
-insert 6th and 7th stanzas-
How did he do it? How can he bear to hold back his emotions like that, just for the sake of others? How could he go around believing in his dream, when no one else thought it possible for him to attain?

The blue-clad shinobi closed his eyes, pressing a hand to his temples. From somewhere in the back of his mind, his voice of reason echoed with an answer.

/Perhaps it’s because he simply lives life to the fullest each day, instead of sitting there thinking and worrying it away…/

Gazing out the window once more, Sasuke nodded. Yes, that seemed like a good reason. Perhaps he should take a leaf out of the blonde’s book and follow the same path…?

As he slid into bed, the descendant of the Uchiha clan made up his mind…

He would tell Naruto his feelings the next day, and no matter what happened, he wouldn’t worry at all about the outcome…

K: squeals Kawaii! -

Y: nod nod A bit rushed at the end though, aibou…

Dai: T.-; Whadda ya expect? She’s still gotta get up at 7 to watch the anime Saturday morning lineup… Hell, she already missed Kenshin today….

K: UU; Dun remind me… I didn’t watch Thursday’s episode either! turns blue and mopes under her covers

Y: whistles as she checks the clock 2 hours- not bad, considering you nearly fell asleep how many times from the slow beat of the song?

Dai: 13… Just count the keyboard marks on her forehead…

K: sinks further under the covers UU; Urusei, Dai-chan…

Dai: XP Make me!

K: is asleep

Y: --; clears her throat and turns to readers Well, hope you guys liked this (especially you, Kandisu-chan!) and I hope you all review. Aibou’s been down lately cuz’ of the evil technical, mathematical, and relationship problems, as well as the fact she might be getting sick and no one’s reviewed her stories in a while, and if you would be so kind as to do so, it would make her much happier… glances over her hikari

Dai: prodding Ko’s KO’ed form with a chopstick Hey- I know! Let’s scribble all over her face with a sharpie! XD

Y: --; Leave her ALONE, Dai!

Be Hinata

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of its characters.

Be Hinata

Author: Hiasobi

Life can be many things...but it is hardly ever what you want it to be. Or expect it to be anyways. And if it is both, than count yourself lucky, because you are the few that have been blessed with a life free of the heavy burden everyone has been forced to carry.

She remembered...

A long, long time ago there was a girl who lived a miserable life. Born into a life and status she did not want, she followed the footsteps of her family unwillingly but not protesting. She had not wanted this life...and one day, she met someone. Her Protector, her shield against the dark, against life. And he loved her, saved her, and took her away from the path she had not wanted to walk...

Be two and be naive.

" Momma! Momma!" She cried, tugging at her Mother's kimono, " tell me story!"

Her Mother smiled down at her, eyes warm with love and bright with joy, " Again?"

" Again!" She said nodding viciously.

" Which one my dear child?" She questioned her beloved daughter.

" Protector! Protector!" The child fairly screamed.

The woman chuckled, " Again?" And laughed as her daughter swung her head nodding energetically once more. " Alright."

" Momma?" The child asked quickly before the story started and waited for her Mother to look down at her, " Will I ever find a Protector?"

She did not know why, but the child knew the gaze, in which her Mother bestowed upon her now, contained something more than what had been in her eyes before. " Perhaps and maybe." The woman's voice was soft, " It all depends my daughter. It all depends..."

She had not understood what it had depended on back then.

Be three and be innocent.

The three-year-old girl child looked forward from her perch on her Mother's arm as she was carried. She glanced around for another child her age; the one who Mother had promised would be her friend. She was quite excited; she had never had a friend before around her own age. Everyone that came and gone from the house were all adults, she had never had a friend of her own age group in the past; she wondered what he would be like?

And then she got nervous as she continued to think about it. Would he like her? Father was never around, her grandfather was always displeased and her trainers never smiled. Her lips started to tremble, and the tremor started to move gradually outwards on her body.

Her Mother looked startled as she peered at the trembling girl she held in her arms. She saw the fear and nervousness, and tried to think of a way to cure it. And then an idea struck her.

" Don't fret my little child," she soothed, " you're going to meet a friend." And when the trembling didn't stop, " And your Protector."

The child stilled. " My Protector?"

" Yes." Her Mother cooed, " Your Protector."

" So...will he-love me?" the child curiously asked.

" Yes." The Mother chuckled, " who could not love you?'

" But, he's a man." The girl child spoke uneasily. " Father...and grandfather...and Shingi-sensei... they..."

" Your Father loves you." The woman spoke, but left the rest unaccounted for, " and he's only a boy. And we promised you'll get a protector when you grow to be three did we not?"

" But he'll grow up to be a man..." her Mother shifted her to the other arm, not answering.

" Ah, just put her on the ground Wife." Her Father said coming up to them, " Your arms must be tired."

The child's Mother complied and they covered the rest of the way walking, all of them. As they drew close to another group of people, the shy girl child clutched onto a part of her father kimono when they stopped and half hide behind his leg when the boy child smiled at her. She tired to smile back but only succeeded in looking at him beneath her eyelashes.

She didn't listen to what the adults said next, only partially feeling the change in the atmosphere as she studied her new Protector. Although her Protector he might be, she also knew what she had told her mother was true.

He'll grow up to be a man...

She wonder if he would fail her then or even before then.

Be five and know pain.

Blood splattered like rain on the floor as she flew backwards in the air, barely conscious enough to feel the pain but not so close to fall into unconsciousness so that she could block it out. She gingerly pushed herself up on her elbows, her whole form shaking from exhaustion.

" Get up!" a sharp kick in her already broken ribs sent her flying again.

She landed sideways and even leaned over a bit more as she coughed, and then wiped her mouth. The blood that soaked her sleeve did not frighten nor shock her; by now it was an expected sight. Blinking her eyes to try to dispel the dizziness and felt a kick connect on her stomach and this time, she was sent flying through the paper doors and landed on the grassy earth near the koi pond outside.

" Such an embarrassment." She heard her grandfather's voice mutter as following footsteps walked away from her still form. She waited for her teacher to follow her grandfather out of the room before she started to push herself up on her tiny arms once more. After several unsuccessful pain numbing tries, she finally got back up to her feet and dragged her feet over to the pond and sat down on one of the big rocks.

Every single part of her small body hurt, but she wouldn't go looking for her Mother, who would be with the first aid kit yet. It was moments like these thoughts entered her mind, of how long she was going to last and if she was ever going to improve. So much training everyday, but yet wielded little or no results.

She sighed, and quickly clasped her hands over her mouth as another coughing fit started. Once her body clamed down, she wanted to run to her mother, but instead she dragged her tiny broken body back into the house and took tiny steps all the way to her room.

Be six and know despair.

" No! Mother!" Small arms extended to breach the impossibly wide distance between the two as tears streamed down both their faces. " Mother!"

" Stop struggling!" the rough voice of her instructor barked at her and he and a comrade held her back as her father and uncle dragged her Mother away from her. " This is your punishment for being so lazy! If you improve your skills, we'll let you see her!"

" No Motheerr!!" To separate woman and child from each other, to use their weakness in order to control them...

Is this what the Hyuga was?

Tears coursed down her face as she fell limply to the ground. The voices could no longer reach her and even when comforting arms came upon the scene, no one could touch the heart through the tears anymore.

Be seven and find betrayal.

" Mother's what?" she gasped.

" Lady Hyuga is three months pregnant, didn't you know?" the mocking tone in his voice laughed at her.

She stood still, shock still. Face pale and eyes wide, she saw the world through a detached manner. Her mother was three months pregnant - three months pregnant! And no one had come to inform her of this.

Was she that despised in the Hyugas?

" You showed no signs of improving, so I guess they started demanding for another heir." He sneered at her in contempt. " Might not be very strong, but hey, its got better to be better than you."

She murmured something unintelligible before he was finally satisfied and turned to leave her. Watching his retreating back, she wondered what exactly made her feel more pain. Her family not informing her that she was to receive a child sibling, or that it had been her Protector who had come to her with this news and took such joy in her pain.

And to think she had once thought he could love her.

Oh well, I not like I ever really expected him to anyways...

Be nine and find acceptance.

I'm so tired...

Tired of the shouts. Tried of the screams. Tired of the endless hours of pain. Tired of suffering.

Tired of living.

She rested her small bruised body down on the forest ground and curled up next to the moss.

Tired of fighting.

Nothing was ever going to change, she knew that now. There was nothing she could do to change anything, not now anyways.

She was just so tired.

Be ten and find hope.

She wondered how he did it. While Neji had the power and was powerful, he was strong. He had the strength to pull through anything. He was strong, he had the true strength of being able to fall and picking himself up. He found the will to fight and live while she had given up.

Given up...

No that didn't sound right, she hadn't given up. She could still feel the fire inside of her, wanting to erupt. But she subdued it, as she has always done since she accepted that she could never be powerful enough to satisfy the Hyuga's or her family.

She could never be powerful enough for the Hyuga's, she knew that and she had given up the notion of being accepted by them, but sometimes she stilled wished. Empty hopes lead to shattered dreams and unfulfilled wishes, she had found this out.

She could never be powerful like Neji, but looking at him, she wondered.

Could I ever be strong like Naruto?

Maybe, maybe.

Though uncertain it was enough to give her hope, and that was enough for the fire to be rekindled once more.

Be eleven and wonder.

Sometimes she wondered if her family even remembered her anymore. She hadn't seen her Mother in years, she saw her Father only in passing in the halls and the relationship with her younger sister, whom she was not allowed to associate with, was only of the yearning glances to directed to each other as their eyes met.

You had to earn your place in the Hyuga's they wouldn't let you stay otherwise, and she could see the many bruises her younger sister always bore. So young...they had started on her at such a tender age...

Was it her fault?

Were they taking such precautions just to make sure her sister never took after her footsteps? Was her sister being taught to hate her? Was she even considered a Hyuga family member anymore? Such thoughts should not ever see the light of day, yet they came more often then not.

She wanted desperately to help the battered form of her little sister, to make sure at least she was not rejected like her. But her help wasn't needed, her sister was strong, her sister was powerful. The Hyuga accepted the small child because the blood ran thick in her veins.

Slowly, she slipped out unnoticed of the dojo as the instructor focused on the younger sibling and her grandfather came into the room. She knew it was not she whom grandfather had come to see, and would either be ignore or brushed off if she had been in the room.

She closed her eyes as she stood in the middle of the yard. The skies were blue and the birds flew free, but in this glorious day with such a beautiful atmosphere, she felt as trapped as she always had been.

Be twelve and understand.

This was it, her last year at the Academy. Just a few more months until she was thirteen and then after that... graduation wasn't that far off. She would become a Genin and then she would prove it to them, to the Hyugas, that she was not a disgrace.

She was old now. Old enough to take care of herself and know stuff. Her clear perception of the world had shocked her new sensei, but there was nothing she could do about it. She saw the world through her eyes, not through the eyes of how people thought she was supposed to see the world.

The Hyuga's had offered her a lodging, an apartment not so far from the academy. It was a very long walk from the Hyuga main house to the school everyday. They had given her the choice of moving out for her final year of schooling, wanting her to be able to do her best. The apartment had been nicely furnished and the family would pay the rent. They wanted her best interest at heart.

Bull. Shit.

They just wanted her out and this was the most convenient excuse. They didn't want her around to be able to influence her sister, who was now starting to look towards her older sister and wondering. The younger sister was starting to take in interest to get to know the older sister and might even be looking towards her as a role model.

They wanted her to leave and to leave the unofficial Hyuga Heir alone.

She slammed the chest shut and clenched her hands into fists. She had the right to be angry. She had the right to be upset. She was also supposed to have the right to get to know her sister. She was supposed to be allowed to see her mother. She was supposed to be allowed to call these people her family.

But she couldn't, not in the truest sense. She didn't know what she was in their eyes. A failed Heir? A Main House member? A Branch member? An outsider?

She couldn't decide how she was supposed to feel.

Be fourteen and be Hinata.

" I don't go back on my word." The blood was starting to choke her, " That is also my ninja way."

Looking up at her tormentor, she felt something inside of her give. Maybe she had been a fanciful fool, maybe she had been a daydreaming girl, maybe she had been desperate, and maybe she had been all of those things. But slowly, with each punch and hit he landed on her frail body, the notions were slowly dieing.

She knew now it had been unfair to expect him to save her, when he couldn't see past his own despair. She now knew it had been foolish to want him to care for her, when he couldn't afford to care much about anyone else. And she now knew it had only been a dream that he would have someday became her Protector.

It was too late for him to redeem himself, and too late for her to try. Time had flowed and their lives had gone in such ways without their permission. There had been pain, despair and betrayal. It was hard to go back and change those things. But you lived life only once, and within that life, maybe you could have two beginnings.

Yes, that sounded nice.

They would try again, after this fight was settled. They would look at each other with -if not new than-different eyes. They would start over, and maybe this time there would be hope. Maybe this time there will be acceptance.

Maybe this time they wouldn't hurt each other.

Her body broken, bleeding, and ravage by the person who was supposed to save her, she only looked up towards the balcony and tried to smile at the one who saved her from him. Thanks to him, she could finally see what had been in front of her for a long time. Her Protector needed to be protected himself.

Here, in front of everyone she would take her first step towards changing, towards freedom. She would free herself from this cage, and she could only hope Neji could do the same. It was time to begin anew, and maybe there would be a reason for all the hate.

Maybe this time, they wouldn't hate.

Yes, that sounded very nice indeed.


Author's Note: This is my thoughts on how Hinata's life in the Hyuga was and how she grew up. th age for the Genin fight might not be right, but no one could tell me their difinate age, so I guessed. Please read and review, I would love the feedback.

Hand in Hand chapter 2

Hand in Hand
By: Rainedrops

Chapter 2 - White Valentine

March 13th
Snow laid all over the ground. It was an unusually cold year. Usually the snow started melting by now. But instead of melting it was still collecting.
Sakura put on her coat and was ready to head home. She wrapped her scarf around her neck and embraced the chilling wind that would be blowing at her when she opened the door. She walked slowly, yet she was quickly going numb from the cold. She stuffed her small hands into her pocket and couldn't help but to think of the events that happpened a month ago.
Disappointment hit her hard on Valentine's Day. Not only had she given her present after Ino did, but she couldn't even get a reaction out of him. The days that followed were no different either. There was no sign of appreciation, sometimes even no acknowledgement of her existence.
This is bad. Sasuke must think my present, or even the whole idea of Valentine's Day, dumb. Inevitably Sakura's mind filled with doubt. She didn't know how long this crush was going to last. At first she thought it would last forever; now she can't bear another day. The pain was too hard to suppress. She kept mulling over this as she trudged along. She passed by the shop where she bought the gloves without even giving it a glance.
But most importantly, she forgot that the next day was White Valentine's...
Sasuke had been walking for a while after her now, but she didn't seem to have noticed. He kept his distance, afraid that Sakura might notice him. He found it strange for himself to follow her; he had no idea why did so. Perhaps it bothered him that every day when she was returning home, she would stuff her hands into her coat pocket and walk off with her head down.
As Sasuke passed by the same shop selling the gloves, he stopped. He looked at the pairs of gloves for a while and decided to go inside and take a look.
"Welcome!" The shopkeeper said, "How may I help you?"
"The gloves in the display case, the pink ones, can I have a pair please?"
"Oh those! Haha, they're becoming quite popular. Getting them for your girlfriend?"
"!" Sasuke stuttered as he was trying to think of a reason the give the shopkeeper and not look stupid.
"Hahaha! You remind me of this girl that came in about a month ago. She was holding up the pink and blue ones and deciding which one she was going to buy. In the end she chose the blue one and told me to wrap it up too! I bet you she was giving it to someone for Valentine's Day! Haha, I wonder what she'll get in return on White Valentine's!"
"White Valentine's?"
"Oh don't tell me you don't know now dear! It's the day when you return your gifts for those who gave something to you on Valentine's!"
Sasuke had concentrated too much on training and avenging his family. He was totally unaware of such an event until today. "I'll take a pair of those pink ones please!" Sasuke said as he took out his money to pay for it.
"Hey! Those gloves are the same ones as what we sell!" The shopkeeper said a little amazed as he took Sasuke's money.
"Uh... yah... Bye." Sasuke left the store and turned around to go home. He looked at the package and wondered what in the world was going on. Buying the gloves was completely an act of impulse. Words came out faster than he could think.
What am I doing?

March 14th
"So Sakura my friend, I assume you gave something to MY Sasuke on Valentine's Day! So what did you get back from him?"
Ino and Sakura were walking together. Sakura was on her way to training again but Ino had her day off.
"Sakura. SAKURA!" Ino yelled. Sakura snapped out of her trance and looked up.
"What in the world do you want Ino? No, I didn't get anything from him, and my guess would be you didn't either!"
"Well of course I'll get it today," Ino said, "After all, today is White Valentine's"
Oh shoot! I totally forgot today was White Valentine's. What should I do? I really don't want to see him right now.
"Hey Ino, I forgot something. I have to go back. See you later, okay?"
"No problem! That'll just mean I get to Sasuke first!" Ino called back at her.
The truth was, Sakura didn't want to go to training at all. She stopped after jogging for 15 minutes and sat down at a bench. Two hours passed and she was still huddled in a ball on the bench. She slowly got up and stretched her cramped legs.
Maybe they'll be off for lunch now. I can go back and check out what's going on.
When she got there, Sasuke and Naruto were just about to leave. Ino was dangling closely behind Sasuke as the three of them went off to get something to eat. She went in the building and hung up her coat.
"So where have you been all day Sakura?"
Sakura almost jumped so high she hit the ceiling. "Ka...Kakashi-sensei! I just forgot something along the way and went home to get it!" Sakura lied.
"And it takes you two hours and a bit to get back?"
Sakura had nothing to say and walked off to practise. Love's got a grip on her again Kakashi thought.
Kakashi directed her into another room to work on her own skills while Sasuke returned. Ino had gone off to somewhere else already. When Sasuke hung up his own coat, he noticed that Sakura's was also there. He quickly took out his present from his pocket and put it in her's.
"What are you doing Sasuke? Stop standing by the racks and get over here!" Naruto hollered. "Yah, coming!" Hours passed and Sakura almost passed out from exhaustion. She stayed in longer than any other day and didn't even get a bite of lunch. She laid on the floor for a while. I wonder what Sasuke is doing right now. Probably went home.
At that moment, Sasuke was actually outside sitting on the railing. What's taking her so long? I wanted to surprise her too.
Sakura finally got up and went to gather her belongings. Something fell out of her coat while she was putting it on. She bent down and picked it up. This is strange, I swear I saw this wrapping somewhere before. Then realization hit her and she opened the gift. Inside all the pretty wrapping was a pair of pink gloves, the ones that she had wanted on that day but couldn't afford to get. She was so happy to see them now in her possession, but she also wondered who gave it to her. Half of her thought it was Sasuke, but the other half knew it was impossible.
Sasuke saw Sakura walk out and headed over casually. He noticed that she had the gloves on and smiled. He stopped as they almost bumped into each other.
Sakura looked up from her thinking and found Sasuke's face.
"So... Um... how did you like the gift... Sakura?" Sasuke asked softly.
"You... you gave these to me?" Sakura was blushing terribly and was on the verge of tears.
Sasuke nodded. He didn't know what else to say. After a moment for Sakura to calm down, Sasuke held out his hand.
"Let's go home... Sakura."
"Hai!" Sakura said as she smiled happily. She placed her hand in his and together they walked down the icy sidewalk, supported by each other's warmth.

Author's Note: Well, this ends it! I think I might draw some fanart for my fic If I do they'll be posted up on my site

Disclaimer: I don't own any characters in Naruto.

A Princess Without a Knight Virgo

A Princess Without a Knight Virgo
Author: ajremix

"She's beautiful."

"Thank you. Our little princess, she is."

"It's so nice to get together again, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's been far too long. How've you and yours been?"

"Oh, we've been great."

"I hear your little boy's something else."

"Yeah, you'd be amazed at how clever he is."

"Here, those two can play in this room while we catch up."

"Good idea, there's so much we have to talk about."

She watched as the adults left them alone before she turned to the boy with her. He didn't seem much interested in the things around them, his heavily lidded eyes roaming the room slowly. For some reason, that lazy look was already starting to bother her.

"Hey." She said. He didn't say anything. "Hey!" She said a little louder.

"I heard you the first time." His voice was husky for a five-year-old child, but the flatness of it made her frown.

"Then say something so I know that you did."

They both stayed quiet for a moment, his back was still facing her.

"Weren't you going to say something?" He asked. She felt a vein twitch in her forehead.

Instead, she controlled her voice the best she could. "Don't you want to do something?"

"Not really."

She pouted a bit. "Aren't you bored?"


"Then don't you want to play a game?"


"Why not?"

He finally looked over his shoulders, dark eyes closed, lips twisted in a bit of a scowl. "Because that's boring, too."

Something snapped at that. "And how would you know?" She cried, angry. "Are you saying I'm boring?"


"I am not!"

"You're noisy, too."

"I am NOT!"

His scowl deepened and he turned to her fully. "Yes, you are."

"I'll show you." She sniffed before she strode proudly over to him. "Here." She tugged him to a small stool off centered from some building blocks. Setting him bodily down on the stool, she pulled back his long black hair, bunching it tightly in her hands.

"Ow! What're you doing?"

"I'm fixing your hair."

"Why? Ow- stop that!"

"Because," she answered, snapping a rubber band against his scalp, patting the end of the high ponytail in order to make it bush out, "it looks better."

"It hurts." He said shortly.

"Well you have to do what I tell you to." She said haughtily, moving around in front of him, arms crossed and an overbearing look on her face.


"Because, we're going to play Princess and Knight."

"That's boring."

"No it's not!" She snapped. "And as your princess, you have to do what I say."

"I don't wanna be your knight."

"Well I'm making you one!"

"This is stupid."

"Shut up! It is not!"

"You're going to be a kunoichi, aren't you?"

"Yeah, so?"

"Kunoichi's aren't supposed to be weak like princesses."

"Who says I'm going to be weak?"

"Knights are supposed to save princesses."

"Well this princess can fight!"

"That's stupid."

"No it isn't!"

"This is stupid.. why am I doing this?" He looked up at the arena and wished he were somewhere else. Preferably somewhere where no one could find him. "Che. I don't even like fighting. I should've just thrown the first match." He rubbed the back of his head. "I would've if I didn't have to fight a girl. Especially Kin.." He scowled to himself. Losing to the Sound genin was the last thing he'd allow himself to do. And so instead he's still fighting. "This is so stupid!"

"Aw, are you upset you still have to fight?" A teasing voice asked from somewhere behind him. He made a not entirely pleased face.

"Oh. Ino."

She raised a brow. " 'Oh. Ino.'? That's the appreciation I get for coming out to cheer for you?"

Shikamaru scowled, scuffing a foot in the dirt. I'm not the one you came out to cheer for, he thought brutally to himself. "What do you want?"

Ino came up behind him, leaning her head over his shoulder. He could almost feel the velvet heat coming off her cheek. "Oh, come on. This next round really couldn't have gotten you in that bad of a mood. I mean, so what if you have one more round than everyone else?"

His mood visibly darkened. Thanks for reminding me, he thought, hands stuffed into fists at the bottom of his pockets.

Noticing his worse than normal mood, Ino became a bit concerned and put her hands on his shoulders. "C'mon, Shikamaru. Is this match really bothering you that much?"

Slowly, he turned his head to face her, agitation melting to something that made him seem older and weary. He brought a hand up to her hair. "I liked your long hair better."

Ino couldn't help but blush ever so slightly at his sudden change in attitude. "O-Oh?" She moved her hand up to self consciously feel the tight bun she kept her hair in and jolted when her hand came into contact with his. "It's.. it's just hair. It'll grow out."

He turned away, scowling again. "It was stupid to cut it. Clever plan, but stupid."

She smacked his shoulder. "You're such a jerk, Shikamaru. Really." He just shrugged. "You know.. I was just thinking, a couple days ago, when we were kids. You remember, right? When our parents left us in a room to play in while they talked?"

He looked away, reflectively. "I remember it was some of the most boring moments of my life. And you were always so noisy and bossy about everything."

Ino's eye twitched a bit. "Well," she tried to keep her voice level, "do you remember the game we always played?"

"You mean the one you kept trying to make me play." He corrected.

"You know what I mean." She returned. She collected herself then and reached into one of her pockets, taking out a red, silken rose. "Well, a princess has to have a knight, doesn't she?" Shikamaru turned to look at her, not entirely understanding just what she was going to say. "When you win this round, I'll make you my knight." She smiled, not that sexy smile she always used on guys, or when she just had to get her way. Just a simple, shy, girlish smile that made her look innocent and vulnerable. "Well?"

He didn't say anything, but averted his eyes, feeling a sort of pleasant uncomfortableness at her smile. After a long while, Shikamaru answered, ".. I.. will do what I can."

He huffed, wind billowing around him and the tree he used as shelter, watching the few wisps of clouds that moved freely in the sky.

"Man.. I wish I were a cloud. Then I wouldn't have to be doing all these stupid things, I could just float around and do nothing all day.."

He could still hear the crowd booing at his lack of performance over Temari's giant fan and the wind that she kept streaming at him. He didn't know what she thought she was going to accomplish by her actions. To eventually blow the trees out of the ground? Hope maybe he'd choke to death on the dirt being kicked up? Stupid girl..

She was taunting him, insulting him, demanding he come out and fight, but Shikamaru couldn't help but to let out a grim smile. There was only one girl he'd ever let boss him around, and that's only because it was the easiest way to get her to shut up. But then.. his smile became a bit more sentimental, maybe it was because it was the only way to get her to pay attention to him. He liked to think that he was good at anticipating and reading other people, but he never knew what exactly Ino ever thought.

"Go for it! Shikamaru!"

How could it be, he wondered to himself, that he could hear her voice over everyone else? Maybe she really was just that noisy.. Speaking of noisy, he could hear Naruto from the sides too, that damn idiot. Shikamaru made a mental note to himself to pay the fox boy back for pushing him over the railing.

He spotted the holes in the ground, and an idea formed in his head. Before he had a chance to act, though, Temari began her attack once again, in earnest. The winds were much stronger this time, shaving through the trunks of the trees, carving deep grooves into the walls of the arena and slicing open his skin.

"Shit," he muttered, "she's getting a little too intense.." But the wild billowing kicked up a good veil and he immediately formed the well familiar In, hands clamped in 'Ko' form, and he could feel the shadows around him. His mind felt them swirl around him and he watched them form and move at his mind's command and he saw it shoot forward and disappear through the dark clouds, aiming for his opponent. His specialty: Ninpou Kagemane no Jiyutsu.

He knew she was too skilled and smart to simply get caught in his shadows, but he seriously doubted she could figure out his true intent. Ah well, all the easier for him. He watched as the shadows met their maximum length, Temari marking it with a gashed line in the sand with her fan. Shikamaru gauged the distance critically. It wouldn't take that much longer, if he could curve her around, she'd be right where he wanted her. That information secured in his thoughts, he settled into his favorite time- passing position. He could spend all day just to get everything set to implement his plan. Or until she made a mistake. Either way, he cleared his mind and waited, senses alert to every move she made. Besides, if it gave Sasuke time to get here, he wanted to see Gaara's ass kicked after what he did to Li.

Attack if you want, Shikamaru thought, but that wind'll be far too weak to do any damage from that distance, and you know better than to get any closer..

The only problem he had was that while he waited, his mind had a tendency to wander. Not that he didn't mind the thinking, but at that moment, it tended to be.. a bit distracting. His ears strained, trying to hear Ino cheering for him like she said she would. And she was there, cheering louder than anyone else, the only one that was certain, from the very depths of her soul, believing that he would win this fight. Naruto just didn't want another village coming out on top, let alone a girl. Asuma and Chouji.. though they knew he was perfectly capable of winning, were expecting him to give up. But Ino knew he would win.

'When you win this round..'

She knew he would win against Temari. It was obvious, wasn't it? She was so static in her attacks, but he was flexible, he knew how to attack his opponents without being noticed. But then.. would Ino cheer so loudly if he were fighting someone else? Dosu, Shino.. maybe even Kankurou she would have. Neji or Naruto.. it would've been an extremely slim chance, and given Naruto's past performances, Shikamaru would've given up at the other's sheer stubbornness than anything else. It would've been '/If/ you win this round.. Gaara.. oh if it were Gaara, he'd be dead before he could get the In for the Kagemane off, there'd be no hope for him if it were Gaara. He was already on the Sand genin's hit list as it were..

And if he were fighting Sasuke?

Shikamaru violently broke out of his thoughts. He couldn't sit around, he didn't want to think about that. He reached into his back pouch to grab a kunai just as Temari readied another attack, apparently building enough strength to let off a stronger offensive.

In the stands, his minds eye could see Ino, hands clenched tightly on her thighs, watching him with worry. "Shikamaru.." Her voice tight and quiet.

"Che!" He braced his back against a tree trunk, slipping out of his jacket. He had to stop this, this fight ended now..

He tied his band, jacket and kunai together, using Temari's wind stream to send the pseudo-balloon into the air, waiting for its shadow to connect with his. With the extra mass, the shadow shot forward once more, this time, he curved it, pushing Temari into the final position for his trap.

Shikamaru smirked, watching as Temari suddenly stopped in the middle of her movements, muscles straining and the arena became dead quiet, uncertain as to what had happened.

"I win." He said to himself, moving forward, allowing Temari to see just how he had captured her. After all, he supposed it was only fighting. But then, despite his obvious victory.. the closer he came to Temari, a deep, sinking feeling writhed in his stomach, a cold, heavy snake that pressed inside of him. After this, it would be more training. After this, it would be more fighting. As far as skill went, he was on par with Shino, he could probably win. But after that.. three opponents he could potentially have. Gaara, he knew he didn't have a chance with. If Naruto could make it to the finals, he doubted he could beat him. And Sasuke..

"All right, Shikamaru!" Ino cried happily from the stands, jumping from her seat, urging him on. Cheering out her heart, just like she had for the entire match. Just like she said she would. Just for him. But that fact made him feel cold and useless.

Because if he were fighting Sasuke..

Shikamaru raised his arm. Temari shut her eyes as she was forced to do the same.

"I knew you could do it!"

He saw Ino smiling at him, the way she did before the match.

He choked inside.

"I give up."

Again, the arena fell quiet in disbelief. "It's too much of a bother." He explained. "I already have my next moved planned out and my chi won't run out for another ten seconds, but this is just becoming too much trouble for me. I'm giving up." Scratching his shoulder, Shikamaru hid his trembling frown in the crook of his arm. I'm sorry, Ino.. but I can't let you chose. Because I know I'm not the one you'd cheer for.

And in the stands, Ino felt something inside of her break, silk rose falling from her numb fingers.