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Sasuke woke up sore and busted, wincing as he sat up in the boy’s guest room of their current protectee’s home. His eyes immediately searched the area for any possible dangers or signs of anything moved.

There were nothing and no one but him and Naruto sleeping side by side in their individual mats. Well, not really side by side. Since Naruto liked to fail around while he slept Sasuke usually took it upon himself to drag his mat to a corner somewhere whenever they were forced to sleep in the same room together.

The blond-haired boy several meters away from him snorted in his wide-eagled position on top of his mat, smirking at something in his dreams. A snot bubble grew to the size of a rubber ball from one nostril before giving a wet pop. Naruto must have felt the tickle because he laughed a little.

Sasuke rolled his eyes, silently calling him a dimwit, and forced his muscles to move.

While the team took some downtime during their mission to protect a bridge builder and his family, Kakashi had them training to control their chakra. Putting enough chakra under their feet, the team was supposed to walk the tree to the top. If they lose control on the tree before they fell they had to mark the place on its bark that they managed to reach.

Easier said than done.

Like him, Naruto was banged up with scratches and bruises from the climb up his individual tree. He remembered how much the idiot had kept up trying to beat him with the highest mark on its bark. Neither would stop, trying to gain the top point before the other. It was nightfall when Sasuke dragged both of them back to Inari’s home. Unlike them, however, Sakura was the only one who got to the top of her tree that first day.

Sasuke smirked to himself when he thought of the twinge of jealousy he felt when their eyes met and he turned away from her. Annoying... he’d thought when she called his name and waved down at him, then looked saddened when he gave no reaction.

Naruto wouldn’t even tell him what Sakura whispered in his ear then, not that it mattered anyway. He finally made it to the top that night, but it was hard won.

He needed to take that shower he was meaning to take last night.

Trying not to let the numbness in his bones stop him, Sasuke made his way slowly out of the room, heading through the living room to the bathroom ahead. Across from the bathroom was where Sakura was currently taking residence. He hoped she wouldn’t come out as he neared her room door and turned to the oak wood door on the left.

She could be a pest most of the time, and it did no good that she was like a bloodhound when it came to his whereabouts.

He made sure to make no noise as he entered the bathroom.

Then he stopped.

He felt something...off, like a slightly hollow feeling in his chest. Sasuke turned to Sakura’s door again and noticed the crack of the wooden door. He couldn’t help peering into it, a small blush on his cheeks from knowing full well he wasn’t supposed too. He didn’t move from his spot for fear he might get caught, and narrowed his eyes to see through the crack better. He saw the edge of a bed and a few clothes were strewn about, but that’s all he could glimpse. It didn’t matter though, he knew she was gone.

What? Where did she go?

Then he shook his head, why in the world would he care where she went?

The flash of green eyes and a soft smile interrupted his thoughts and he shook his head again.

Why did she have to annoy him in his head too? Disgusted with himself, Sasuke stalked out of the bathroom, forgetting all about the shower, to find Sakura.

He just needed to calm the feeling of wrongness in his chest, it wasn’t anything more than concern for his teammates’ safety. He kept the irritating thought of exactly how he figured out Sakura was missing and exited the house.

The sun was still low in the sky, meaning it was still early in the morning. He looked around the tree-grown area for signs of pink hair, or at least a happy “Sasuke-Kun!”, but he saw nor heard anything about Sakura.

Getting a little pissed for having to go out of his way, and even more so because he knew he cared, Sasuke walked around the perimeter of the home.

Nothing.

He ended up stopping at the foot of a big tree in the front of the house again, pushing his hands into his pockets to keep from shaking.

What? Am I a baby!? Do I need her around that much!?

No, he was just extremely curious as to where she went to so early in the morning.

Maybe he should try calling out for her-

“Sasuke-Kun?” asked a familiar female voice from behind him. Sasuke turned a little, looking over his shoulder at his pink-haired friend. His heart flip-flopped at seeing her unhurt. She gave him a bewildered look, green eyes wide with questions.

“Why are you out here so early in the morning?” she asked him.

“I could ask the same of you, Sakura.”

Sakura held up something small in her hands, and Sasuke stared. The small bunny twitched it’s pink nose at him, dark beady eyes unwavering on his.

“I found a bunny in the woods yesterday and wanted to see if it was still there.”

Sasuke then noticed the dirt stains on her red attire and pointed at them.

“On your knees?”

Sakura made a face. “He kept trying to get away and I fell a few times.”

The bunny hopped out of her hands all of a sudden and onto Sasuke’s head. The heavy weight and warmth of the small thing made him go still.

Sakura laughed. “It likes you, Sasuke-Kun!”

Sasuke looked at her and smiled a little. She stopped laughing immediately and blushed, frozen on his face.

“Sasuke-Kun?” she stammered. “A-are you ok?”

“I’m fine,” Sasuke said smoothly. Then he nodded to the house as he took the bunny off his head with ease. It felt so hard not to squish the fragile thing. “Let's go, Sakura. You haven’t eaten, have you?”

Sakura was so surprised she halted mid-reach for the bunny. Her eyes went up to his. “Huh? Sasuke-Kun, why are you being so nice to me today?” she asked bluntly.

Sasuke wanted to know the answer to that question too.

Maybe, he thought all of a sudden, I just want you to stay by my side.

Side by side, always.

Sasuke gave her one of his famous annoyed looks and turned to the door of Tazuna’s home.

He answered her question with his own. “Aren’t we friends?”