Author's Note: Before I type anything else, I must say this pairing deserves more love. Also, Inner Sakura is in this because I want her to be here.

Thanks a lot to the folks on The Orange Book discord server, their positivity towards my rarepair ship encouraged me to finish this!

Warning: Sasuke bashing (Sorry Sasuke...). Reference to past cheating. Some swearing.


If you spend too long holding onto the one who treats you like an option, you'll miss finding the one who treats you like a priority.

-Unknown

Sakura Haruno paced the floor of her living room, quietly grumbling to herself while her best friend, Shino Aburame, sat silently watching her behind his ever-present black circular glasses.

Suddenly, she stopped on the opposite side of the kotatsu in her living room with her hands on her hips. Her jade green eyes narrowed a fraction in an attempt to scrutinize the boy sitting parallel to her, trying to determine which tactic to use to get the aloof boy to talk. Despite being extremely close for nearly a decade now ever since Shino threatened to toss a stinkbug into Ami's hair for picking on her, they rarely fought, so both teenagers were at a loss of what to do in this situation.

Sakura had a hunch that intimidation wouldn't work on Shino as it did with Naruto (Shino was just as stubborn as she was at times) when he annoyed her, so she tried a different approach.

"Come here," Sakura said with a sickly saccharine smile aimed at her if-he-didn't-start-talking-soon-to-be-dead childhood best friend.

"Why?" Shino calmly answered. Not being an idiot, he knew exactly what might happen to him if he obliged her request, and depending on who you asked, maybe he deserved it, after what he did but being the only person who could talk her into calming down, he stalled and waited for any opportunity to work his magic.

Sakura's fake grin slowly melted away like ice cream on a blazing summer day. "Just come here."

He's going to pay for making me worry! CHA! Her Inner screeched.

Uh oh, this time it sounded more like a demand. Sensing her hastily manifesting impatience, Shino blurts out the first thing that came to mind. "I'm afraid I can't do that Sakura; in your current state of mind you are more likely to inflict harm onto my person."

The pinkette instantly deflated at that; she could never actually hurt Shino. Sure, she used to take her anger out on those who bullied her, but after a near suspension incident involving rude comments about her forehead and Sakura's fists, she has since learned to control her temper.

She plopped herself down into a cross-legged sitting position across from Shino and simply asked, "Why did you do it?"

"He deserved it," was all she got from him from what was this? The seventh time she's asked? All she wanted was an explanation! That's it! He could've gotten in so much trouble for hiding all of those tarantulas in Sasuke's locker, but he still did it! The most reclusive boy ever did was unnerve anyone who wronged her, and they always left her alone after that.

Sakura closed her eyes and inhaled slowly, thinking. What was she supposed to say to get them away from this impasse? The truth was, she could care less about Sasuke, he did deserve the scare of finding dozens of arachnids popping out at him, and everything else that came to him after people found out he cheated on her with Naruto's cousin, Karin. Whatever dwindling feelings she'd had left were already wiped away. She was more concerned with the other emotionally unresponsive boy whom she cared deeply for. Sakura knew he felt the same, and they would do anything for each other, but for some reason, she refused to move past this until he was honest with her. It wasn't doable to simply laugh this off, she just knew he had a deeper motive for doing what he did. Sasuke was aware of how close she had Shino were, and that had been the cause of at least half of their arguments, so it was without a doubt in Sakura's mind that blame would be placed on the Aburame. Everyone was familiar with his strange habits of carrying insects around in his coat pockets, so it wouldn't take much to convince Headmistress Senju that he was the culprit.

The Haruno girl sweatdropped nervously. The Uchiha had been major benefactors of Konoha Academy since it was founded and built from the ground up by Tsunade's grandfather Hashirama, and his brother Tobirama. Unfortunately, this meant if he was feeling vindictive, he could have a heavy influence on her friend's punishment. Not even the Headmistress' favor of Sakura would be of much help here.

That's when the realization dawned on her.

"You could get expelled Shino!" Sakura shouted.

He answered without hesitation. "I am aware of the consequences of my actions. It would have been worth it."

Indignance rose up in her at her friend's nonchalance. She knew he was being honest was it really worth it? Was it worth potentially throwing away a future, a chance at really integrating himself in their small town? The closest high school to Konohagakure was all the way in Suna! They would hardly get to see each other if he had to move all the way out there...

Sakura doubted he would last long in Wind Country's hot weather with his heavy jackets he wears all the time. God, she was going to miss him and his questionable fashion choices. The way he'd smile at her behind his high collar, when the sun hit his glasses in such a way that he would have to look in a different direction and she got to see his eyes-

What the hell?

Now is not the time to be thinking about how hot Shino is! Go back to being mad at him!

She blinked. When had she started thinking that way?

Sakura looked down and shook her long rosy hair, making it fall in front of her viridian eyes. Luckily, it covered the sudden flush spreading across her cheeks. Forcing the heat to go away, she looked her best friend in the eye determinedly, forcing any fledgling impure ideas away.

A million thoughts race through her mind instead, a few of the main ones being focus focus focus and make him stay make him stay makehimstay-

"What if we never see each other again? Don't you even care?!"

She inhaled a shaky breath, willing the tears to keep at bay; hating the way her voice breaks on the last word.

Shino's eyes widen in shock, unbeknownst to his beautiful but now-sobbing best friend. He immediately removed his hand from his jacket pocket and tried to take her wrist in a futile attempt to soothe her, as she springs up from her seat and books it to her room, slamming the shoji.

"Sakura..." His deep voice shook with sorrow from upsetting her. Frozen on the floor, arm still outstretched, he stared at the white wood she had just disappeared behind, wanting nothing more than to reach out, slide the door open and envelop Sakura into his arms knowing full well that he was the reason for her distress. He felt it'd be an acceptable punishment; the dichotomy of getting to hold his sweet cherry blossom while her salty tears dampened his clothes.

Was he a bit of a masochist? Maybe.

Lowering his arm, he forced himself to stand up. Walking across the tatami mats, silence stagnantly greeted him, spurred him on. But just as he was about to slide the panel open, soft sobs assaulted his ears. Immediately, a feeling of monachopsis overtook Shino, needing to be by her side, but before his fingers could so much as twitch, he heard Sakura get up and stop right in front of the door. He hesitated once more, an amalgamation of fear and anticipation of what would happen next if she saw him standing there.

He decided he didn't care as long as he got to say the things that were on his mind, at least one of them.

Sakura, I'm sorry.

Sakura, please forgive me.

Sakura, I love you.

He had timidly decided on the last one before an audible thump hit the floor followed by more sobs.

She's right there, what are you waiting for? His own inner voice taunted him, but still, he refrained from entering her room when she so obviously wanted to be alone.

Just let me give her some space, I'll be out here if she wants to talk.

So, as tentatively as possible, Shino quietly lowered himself to the floor and waited.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the door

Sakura leaned her head back, trying to quell the lump in her throat when a soft vibrate reverberates somewhere in her room. She realizes that she had had it on silent for most of the day, not wanting to be overwhelmed by the barrage of notifications she would get from her large group of friends about the recent events. Blindly reaching for her phone from her back pocket and simultaneously wiping any stray tears, she brings it up to her face to read the new message, ignoring the slew of unread ones patiently waiting for her.

3:34 pm - (Naruto) Sakura-chan r u ok?!

3:34 pm - (Naruto) I'm here for u no matter what dattebayo!

3:35 pm - (Naruto) Those two traitors are DEAD to me!

She lets out a garbled noise that is most likely a half-laugh half-whine at the last text. On one hand, she's grateful for his support but- What would this mean for the rest of them?

For the longest time, they called themselves the Konoha 12 because they had all been together for as long as they could remember. What would become of them now? Would they have to be the Konoha 11? Konoha 10?! Sakura honestly has no idea what to think. Sure, some of their inner circle had reacted more strongly than others, (though that isn't to say they were any less infuriated) namely Kiba who had to be physically pulled off of Sasuke after tackling him to the ground by Neji and Lee, but the thought of their group in shambles because of her-

No.

No. She was done thinking like that. Totally over the self-deprecation.

If that bastard had just kept it in his pants everything would be fine.

Then, as though someone was watching over her, another buzz makes her phone come to life in her palm.

3:41 pm - (Ino) Hey Forehead, I know you're probably feeling bad about yourself rn so feel free to watch this at your leisure.

A few seconds later a video of the Sasuke locker incident that had happened earlier that day pops up on her screen. She stares, and Ino sends another message.

3:41 pm - (Ino) Also...you already know this but you know you can talk to me. Let's just forget about what happened between us okay?

Sakura smiled ruefully, fingers already typing without hesitation. She was so ready to kill their old love triangle discourse. Things hadn't really been the same since Sasuke accepted Sakura's confession over Ino's.

3:41 pm - (Sakura) Thanks Pig...Is it too late to give him over to you? Lol

3:42 pm - (Ino) Girl he's not good enough for me, and he's DEFINITELY not good enough for you

As she started enviously at the sheer confidence that was practically emitting from her screen, dreadfully familiar thoughts occurred to her. Like slow-acting poison, the toxic way of thinking invaded her mind and burrowed deep within the bowels of her subconscious; making themselves known to her one by one.

He probably only picked you over Ino because he thought you would be easier to take advantage of. After all, who would have you as their first pick? Ino's much prettier than you, Karin's technically related to headmistress Tsunade and the mayor- what could you possibly bring to the table?

Obviously not enough, seeing as Sasuke-Kun wasn't satisfied with you-

Sakura hung her head, but her wallowing was cut short once more by a rather loud inner.

HEY! What did we say about self-deprecation?! Quit throwing yourself a pity party and talk to your friend!

3:42 pm - (Sakura) Too bad it took us so long to figure that out huh? Boys are so dumb

3:42 pm - (Ino) You said it

3:42 pm - (Ino) Speaking of boys~

Sakura stared at the three dots signaling that Ino was still typing, uncertain of what her blonde friend would say next. With Ino, it was always a roll of the dice.

3:42 pm - (Ino) Shino's with you now right?

3:43 pm - (Sakura) Uh yeah why?

3:43 pm - (Ino) Of course he is idk why I even asked

3:43 pm - (Ino) So why the hell am I the one comforting you now instead of him!

Before Sakura could respond to that out-of-nowhere text, but Ino beat her to it.

3:43 pm - (Ino) Sakura I love you but you have got to get on that

3:44 pm - (Sakura) Wth are you talking about

3:44 pm - (Sakura) Ino?

3:44 pm - (Sakura) INO!

3:45 pm - (Sakura) STOP LEAVING ME ON READ YOU BITCH

3:46 pm - (Ino) Calm down Billboard Brow I was gonna leave you to it to figure it out for yourself but clearly you need my help

3:46 pm - (Ino) The fact that you two aren't together yet shows how much

The pinkette nearly dropped her phone as the proverbial dots started connecting.

3:46 pm - (Sakura) Wait

3:47 pm - (Sakura) Are you talking about me and Shino?!

3:47 pm - (Ino) Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

3:47 pm - (Ino) But in all seriousness, you two would be a great couple

3:47 pm - (Ino) He definitely treats you like a proper boyfriend should

3:38 pm - (Ino) Plus he's totally your type! Tall mysterious and handsome~ ;)

3:38 pm - (Ino) At least I assume so since you're totally in love with him

3:38 pm - (Ino) OMG you have got to tell me what he looks like later! Most of us haven't even seen his face!

Please never change Ino, Sakura thinks as she fondly rolls her eyes.

If you asked her, Sakura wouldn't admit to comparing her interactions with Sasuke and with Shino and finding almost no similarities. She also won't admit to picturing her close friend in her now ex-boyfriend's place.

She tries and fails to stamp down the blush that surfaces after thinking about yanking down Shino's collar, grabbing his neck, and making them close on a whole new level-

She saves the video Ino sent her as Sasuke's feminine screams fill the silence of her room, and Sakura laughs.

Sakura ponders why she even convinced herself it was Sasuke she wanted in the first place.


Sasuke should have expected it, he should have expected that he would be there. But he wasn't thinking about him, he was thinking about getting Sakura back; explaining to her why he did what he did because surely, she'd understand. She was kind and understanding in a way he'd probably never deserve, but he'd never given up anything in his life, and he'd be damned if he let one of the only good things in it go now.

But no, nothing was going right for him today. Perhaps Kaguya was against him, for what he did to Sakura.

"What do you want?" Shino icily scoffed from the opposite side of the doorway.

"I think that's pretty obvious Bug Boy, is Sakura here?"

"She doesn't want to see you right now, scram Uchiha."

"Well, then she should tell me that herself. I'm not seeing her anywhere right now."

"Excellent, then I have no obligation to let you inside."

"If you don't move right now..." Sasuke growled.

Shino smirks. "You'll what? Run away shrieking like a little girl again? Real attractive, Casanova."

Sasuke snapped, fisting the taller boy's high collar, getting close to his face.

"Listen here Aburame, I fucking know it was you who put those damn spiders in my locker. And I will do everything in my power to-"

"You mean daddy's power, right? Aw, did I hurt your feelings~" The patronizing tone only served to infuriate Sasuke more.

"SHUT THE HELL UP!"

Sasuke pushes Shino through the doorway and pins him inside the house, so hard that the picture frames on the walls shake, not unlike Sasuke's panting breaths.

This is the guy Sakura chose over me? Sasuke couldn't believe it, he just couldn't comprehend what the other boy had over him. This weird, antisocial introvert who spent more time around praying mantises than people.

Suddenly, Sakura storms into the room, yanking the Uchiha off her best friend. She had heard the commotion a while ago but decided she needed to step in when she heard something slam against her wall.

Tears well up in her eyes at the sight of him, a psychical reminder of the years she wasted on romancing the wrong boy, and she fucking hates it because she never cries, damn it. He makes her weak, and not in a good way if there even is a good way.

Never again never again never again.

She doesn't even register the contact of her fist against his face, the crack of bone, the groan the wood of her engawa makes as a body lands precariously on its edge, her heavy exhales, the slamming of a door, the shaking of her palms.

Her face is abruptly full of fabric, there is one hand stroking her long, bubblegum hair, and one softly wiping the cursed tears cascading down her cheeks. Her head pounds with each word from Ino comes reeling back at her as she gazes at her b- best friend.

...you two would be a great couple.

He definitely treats you like a proper boyfriend should.

...you're totally in love with him.

Maybe deep down she had known it all along. Maybe that's one of the reasons why she wasted her time on Sasuke. Sakura saw how similar they were on a totally superficial level and she wants to deck herself in the face because she was supposed to be smarter than this.

Oh well, there's nothing she can do about the past now. There was just the future, and she would do whatever it took to make sure it was with Shino.

Sometime during the struggle, Shino's glasses had flown off his face, what was strange was that he didn't even notice, and now the warmest brown eyes were fixed on her with such concern (and perhaps some longing?).

Only one way to find out.

There was about a five-inch height difference, but that obstacle was quickly overturned when Sakura turned her head up and closed her eyes, hoping Shino would take the hint, and boy did he take the hint.

Normally he would have planned this better, (or actually made a plan, period) but because of his little stunt at school, he was very much aware that their time together could be limited, not to mention Sakura looked stunning, even though she had been crying a few moments prior.

If this is going to be their only kiss then he'd make it the most memorable, screw their mutual inexperience. Scooping Sakura up by the waist seemed to be a good way to go, so he did just that.

Letting out a little squeak, much to her embarrassment looking back on it later, Sakura recovers as she's pinned to the wall, instinctively locking her legs around Shino's waist. Their lips meet in a pleasantly assertive collision, tongues playfully greeting each other.

Hands, she needed somewhere to put her hands.

Woefully breaking off the kiss, she places her forehead against Shino's and fiddles with the jacket buttons, silently asking for permission. If it's possible, his eyes darken even more with intent and he places an opposingly innocent kiss between her brows.

Sakura takes Shino's collar and starts unbuttoning it. Throwing his arms back, he lets her yank his coat off and throw it onto the floor somewhere behind them. Normally he'd be very particular about keeping it properly sterilized for his bugs, but he couldn't care less right now.

He had much more pressing matters to deal with.

Literally.

They don't do anything more than kiss that day, and for that Sakura is glad. She briefly considered trying to go further with Shino, before discarding that idea faster than it came. Whatever this thing they have going on now is nice enough as it is. The wounds are still fresh and tender and she wants to prevent ruining this thing before it officially starts. But as she and Shino lie facing each other in her bed, her wrapped up in his so-large-it-nearly-engulfs-her jacket, and him with his arms wrapped around her waist, Sakura finds herself as content as she could be at the moment. In a totally cliché notion that would have Ino squealing, she finds herself getting lost in his comforting chocolatey gaze-

Until her phone unceremoniously chimes, the familiar noise only mildly annoying her.

Speak of the devil.

She elects to ignore it, for obvious reasons, but then her phone goes off again.

Shino chuckles. "Should you get that?"

Sakura really doesn't want to, and she tries to convey this by eye contact alone, but Shino persists with an effortless raise of an eyebrow.

"She won't leave you alone until you answer her, I'll wait." He reassures her by nuzzling their noses together.

Reluctantly rolling over to snatch at her phone, she feels Shino bury his face into her neck, keeping her from going far. Not bothering to stamp down the blush, she opens the messaging app to find Ino typing out more texts along with the few she had sent just now.

5:05 pm - (Ino) I need a status update on you and Shino stat

5:05 pm - (Ino) And you need to tell me how good looking he is, don't think I forgot about that missy

All Sakura sends in response are emojis of the sun and a winking face, giggling in a way that catches the attention of the boy holding her.

"What's so funny?" Shino asks while pressing light kisses to the underside of her jaw.

"Oh nothing," Sakura jests, "I was telling Ino about how hot you are."

In retaliation, Shino blushes and nips her ear, and Sakura is full on cackling now. "You're lucky I-" love you he wants to say, but he knows it isn't the right time. He's waited over a decade, what's a little longer? He'll tell her when things have settled down and they can rename their relationship.

"-like you, you tease, or I wouldn't put up with your flirtatious nature."

"I'm only like this with you, Shino-kun~"

He rolls on top of her and reaches under Sakura's shirt to mercilessly tickle her sides, and her laughter resonates within him, flowing freely like wind chimes.

The End


Author's Note: "I have always felt strongly that chimes are an indication that your angels, guides or loved ones are around you." - Linda Lauren, Psychic Medium.

I read a story about a woman who heard wind chimes when it wasn't windy, even if she was inside, after her sister died, taking it as a sign that it was her late sister since they were so close. It would always happen at around noon when she and her sister would meet up for lunch. She said she felt comforted by the fact that her sister was calling to her. I thought this was nice, so I added in wind chime symbolism to really hammer in the fact that Shino's in love :)

This was supposed to be lighthearted self-indulgence for the lack of fanfic for this pairing idk what the heck happened, also I got the inspiration for this story from a thing I saw on Pinterest that went a little something like-

Relatable Post #2105

"Come here."

"Why?"

"Just come here."

"No you're gonna hit me."