-31-Sakura slammed the last file into place with a triumphant smile. Dropping into her chair she groaned, propping her feet up. Her afternoon off had completely disappeared under a pile of paperwork. She really should know better than to peek into her office to see what was waiting for her. Well, at least it was done now. And she had the time she needed to think about how she wanted to handle her realization from this afternoon. In love. With Naruto. Her smile was bordering on silly.
A soft knock caught her attention. "Anou… Sakura-san, do you have a moment?"
Sakura blinked and stood up. "Hinata! Please, come in!"
Hinata nodded and stepped inside, her eyes roaming the office before coming to settle back on her. "I won't take up much of your time."
Sakura waved her hand. "I just finished. What can I do for you?"
Hinata folded her hands neatly in front of her and took a deep breath. "I'm sure you’re aware of the current standings in my clan?"
Hinata bit her lip and continued, even as her cheeks turned a pale pink. "Do I have a chance?"
Sakura froze at her words. "Hinata?"
She made a small motion with her hand. "I would like to know where things stand with you and Naruto-kun, if I may."
Sakura bit her lip and gave a helpless shrug. How did you tell someone who has been loyally in love with the same man you just realized you cared about for years? Honestly. "I love him, but I don't know if he returns it."
Hinata was silent for several moments before nodding. "I thought so."
She shook her head, a faint grin in place. "This was selfish of me, Sakura-san. I wanted to make sure because… because I wanted to make sure that you would love him."
"If I may ask… why?"
"Because I must marry into the Clan now." She said simply. "It will be my choice, but in order to begin to mend the rift between Branch and the Main house I will take a husband from inside the clan." She gave a little shrug. "It is not as painful as I feared it would be. It helps that you love him."
"I'm sorry." Sakura said simply.
Hinata shook her head. "Don't be. You deserve him."
Sakura shifted her feet, suddenly uncomfortable. "I don't think anyone deserves anyone, Hinata-chan. I think we just get lucky sometimes."
Her pale eyes turned distant. "Perhaps that is so. My luck has never been so good."
Sakura's lips twitched a little. "Tsunade-sensei insists that luck is what you make it."
Hinata looked thoughtful. "I think I like that."
The door to her office swung open and Naruto sauntered in, pausing when he saw Hinata. "Hinata-chan!"
"N-Naruto-kun," she stammered, surprised. She took a deep breath and smiled. "How are you?"
His eyes went back and forth between the women before they landed on Hinata. "I'm doing great! How are things for you? No one’s giving you any trouble are they?" His tone was hard.
"N-no. Neji-kun would never a-allow it."
"Well, at least someone in your family has some decency." Naruto grumbled.
Hinata's face took on several more layers of red and she sketched a hasty bow. "Well, I have taken up enough of your time, Sakura-san. I'll catch you some time and perhaps we can talk then."
"I would like that." Sakura agreed.
"Yeah! You'll have to come and eat dinner with us sometime. I haven't seen you eat a good bowl of ramen in ages, Hinata-chan."
The girl flushed again, waved, and disappeared.
"You're going to have to go a little easy on her for a while." Sakura told Naruto quietly.
Sakura gave him an impatient look. "Because she's in love with you."
"Hinata. She's in love with you."
Naruto blinked several times. "Oh…"
Sakura propped a hand on her hip. "How are you still alive with those observational skills?"
"Hey!" Naruto crossed his arms. "I just thought she was nervous talking to guys."
"Did she have that trouble with Kiba or Shino?"
"They're her teammates?" Naruto grumped. "They're exceptions to the all the normal rules?"
"Are they?" Her tone was soft, and she must have given something away because his head snapped around and he studied her with narrowed eyes.
He stalked to the edge of her desk. "What's that supposed to mean, Sakura?"
She sidestepped to keep the desk between them. "What is what supposed to mean?"
"You're hiding something." He mused, following her movements with his own. His eyes gleamed at her. "It's not nice to keep secrets, Sakura."
"Shizune said she thought you were here. I know I gave you the afternoon off but could you… Naruto?" Tsunade settled her hip against the doorway. "What are you doing here?"
Naruto never took his eyes off Sakura. They were almost glowing. Suddenly he grinned, an open, boyish smile that set off butterflies in her stomach.
"Sorry, Baa-chan, but she can't help you!"
Tsuande lifted a brow. "Why not?"
Naruto's smile altered into something utterly mischievous. "'Cause I'm taking her with me!"
Sakura had hardly a moment to process it when she was suddenly lifted and flung over Naruto's shoulder.
"This is an emergency you know."
Tsunade's other brow slowly arched. “It is?”
"Naruto!" She banged on his back. "Put me down!"
"No can do, Sakura-chan. I'm kidnapping you."
She paused. "Why?"
He ignored her question and shifted his hands behind her knees. Crouching a little, he smirked. "You'll have to excuse us."
Tsunade's lips twitched. "Of course. Bring her back in one piece."
"Naruto! If you don't put me down you're going to find yourself in pieces!"
He just grinned and lifted his hands away from her knees and quickly formed the seals to transport them out of the tower.
Tsunade grinned to herself and shut the door.