All the signals and behaviors were there. They playfully argued; gave each other sideways glances and complimented one another in ways that his book stated were definite signs. Sai knew that his two teammates were in love with each other. He just didn't understand why they weren't openly admitting their feelings. The book he had read about this subject mentioned that there was often a time when two potential partners may be hesitant to begin a relationship until they both knew how the other was feeling. Sai thought that perhaps the book was referring to this awkward time between the two, but he still found it odd how Konoha's loudest ninja was so shy about vocalizing his true feelings to Sakura aside from his poor attempts at asking her out on a date. Though Naruto certainly couldn't take all the blame. Sakura, as smart as she was, didn't seem to get that she loved Naruto. He certainly wasn't the best at expressing himself, but even he understood the depth of her feelings. And they both chided him for masking his emotions. It confused him to no end. Maybe love made you stupid. The book did mention that sometimes love can make people do things that they normally wouldn't do.
He had once asked Kakashi and Yamato if they thought the situation was at all odd. The two older men only laughed and reassured him that everything would be alright. They just needed to do things at their own pace. The situation at least helped confirm his observations, but left him even more confused as to why they wanted him to let Naruto and Sakura figure their feelings out themselves. Weren't shinobi supposed to take action and always be in control of the situation? Sai tried to see if there was a book on love for shinobis and whether they had to follow different rules, but the library didn't seem to supply any. Sai briefly considered asking Danzo his opinion. Though he admitted that he was emotionally stunted, he was no fool. So Sai decided that he would seek the counsel of the most powerful ninja in the village: the Hokage.
When Sai reached the Hokage's office, he was taken aback at the scene that greeted him. Empty sake bottles littered the desk as well as a pile of money accumulating between the Hokage and her old teammate, the legendary Toad Hermit.
"I'm telling you, it's going to happen in a month. Woman's instincts."
"Yeah, well I say it'll take at least half-a year. I know your penchant for always losing."
"Well then just put your money where your mouth is," Tsunade said pointedly before sipping from her bottle.
Sai wasn't sure if it was the appropriate time to interrupt them, but the Chunin guard at the door said that the Hokage was available to talk. Sai guessed that the guard didn't know what the Hokage really did behind these doors.
"Excuse me, Hokage-sama?"
Tsunade turned to face Sai with a drunken smile, "Oh, Sai! Are you here to join in on our little bet?"
"Um, no. I actually had a question for you, if you don't mind?"
"Oh sure!" Tsunade smiled, blushing from intoxication. "Ask away."
Sai thought for a moment about the best way to phrase his question, "I was wondering why Naruto and Sakura haven't figured out that they love each other?"
"Now that's a good question," Jiraiya interjected, holding a sake bottle loosely.
"Well Sai, sometimes two people who are in love with each other need time to sort their feelings out. All couples get into relationships when they're both ready," Tsunade answered.
"That's what Kakashi and Yamato said, but wouldn't it be easier to just tell them both that they have feelings for each other?"
Tsunade glanced briefly at Jiraiya and smiled. "You're a pragmatic man. I like that. Before I answer you, tell me why you are so intent on getting Naruto and Sakura together?"
"They love each other so doesn't it make sense if they're together?" Sai answered, wondering why the Hokage would question his intentions on something so obvious.
"So I take it you want to do something about it?" The busty woman smirked.
"Well, I didn't know if I should interfere," Sai answered honestly. None of his books had mentioned how to confront two people to admit their feelings, which was why he was here.
"Hmmm," Tsunade pursed her lips in thought. "Wait right here."
Sai watched the Hokage walk over to a cabinet behind her to rummage through some drawers. He remained passive as Jiraiya leered at Tsunade as she bent down to look through some drawers near the ground. After waiting for a few minutes, Tsunade returned with a triumphant smile. She held out a bottle of clear liquid and held it in front of the young artist.
"I have a mission for you Sai. I'll classify it as a D-rank mission. I want you to slip this liquid into Sakura and Naruto's food while they are together making sure that they remain in each other's company for at least fifteen minutes while the serum takes effect. Do you accept?"
"You're drugging them!" Jiraiya laughed.
"It's a serum, not a drug. This is supposed to bring out their emotions more."
"Wouldn't getting them drunk work as well?"
"Sure, if you don't consider the morning after," Tsunade snorted.
"So Sai," Tsunade turned her attention to the boy. "Will you accept the mission?"
"Yes," Sai smiled with a hint of sincerity. It was about time someone showed him a way to get his two teammates to see the things that even he could see.
"Good! Here, I'll even throw in a little bit of advanced pay for you," Tsunade said as she grabbed a handful of money lying on the table.
"Hey, we haven't settled our bet yet," Jiraiya protested.
"Hush! You know that after this, both of us are gonna lose so what does it matter," the woman snapped at her old teammate before smiling sweetly and handing Sai everything he needed. "Now any questions before you begin your mission?"
"Very good. I expect good results from this mission so don't let me down. Dismissed."
Sai bowed and took his leave staring at the bottle of clear liquid. As he left the room, he thought he could hear Tsunade and Jiraiya talking about bets on when someone was going to get laid. Sakura and Naruto had very strange mentors. After meeting the two sannin, Sai thought he may have found one of the reasons why his teammates were so hesitant with their feelings. If they were going to go at their own pace as Kakashi suggested, it may be another fifty or so years before they even get close to confessing to each other.
Rolling the small vial around in his hand, Sai wondered how he should go about accomplishing his mission. He briefly thought about slipping it into their ramen when they went out to Ichiraku's. As he pondered the possibilities, he almost didn't notice the blur of orange and black heading his way.
"Oi, Sai! I finally found you!" Naruto shouted.
"Ah, it's dick-le-- . . . . I mean, Naruto." Sai said. He was trying to stop his insults of the blond-ninja's anatomy, but old habits die hard.
Naruto glared at him briefly before speaking. "Sakura-chan wanted me to find you to see if you could come over to her apartment tomorrow night at 6 p.m. Somehow she found out that it was Pakkun's birthday and she wanted to throw him a party. Kakashi-sensei and Yamato are coming."
"A birthday party for a dog?" He knew that humans celebrated birthdays so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that animals did as well.
"Yeah, it'll be fun. Sakura's going to cook all sorts of yummy foods and bake a cake. She wanted to let you know that you can bring some food or drinks if you wanted to. I'm going to the store to buy some chips. Also, you'll need to bring a present for Pakkun." Naruto paused for a moment as he stood in concentration. "I wonder what nin-dogs want for their birthdays. So, are you going to go?"
"I'll go." Sai answered.
"Great! I'll see you at Sakura's tomorrow." Naruto waved good-bye to Sai before running off.
Sai smiled as he watched Naruto's figure fade off into the distance. It looked like he found the golden opportunity to start his mission. Now all he needed to do was go to the store to buy something for the party. He briefly wondered if he should tell Kakashi and Yamato about his mission. Tsunade never said that it was supposed to be top secret and with the two older Jonin helping him, he was sure that the mission would be a success. Maybe if he drew a picture of a scene from one of Kakashi's Icha Icha books, then he wouldn't have to worry about getting Kakashi's full cooperation. He was fairly certain that Yamato would help out regardless, but it might be best to draw two pictures, just in case. A ninja always comes prepared.
Thankfully he had drawn that second picture. Yamato agreed to help out without the help of hand-drawn erotica, but Kakashi argued that the second picture would serve as Pakkun's birthday present. Sai didn't question it since he was now getting the help of the other two Jonins and he really didn't know what to buy a dog. Of course, when it was time for the party only Yamato and Pakkun showed up at Sakura's apartment on time. Sakura and Naruto didn't seem fazed that Kakashi was late, though Sakura was a bit perturbed that her sensei couldn't even show up to the birthday of one of his nin-dogs. Surprisingly, Naruto was the one to calm her down by joking with her how Kakashi would be late for his own birthday, even if it was held at his apartment.
The party was entertaining to say the least. Sakura actually knew how to cook and for once, he saw Naruto eating something other than ramen. Pakkun was enjoying the chew toy Naruto had bought him and the new cape Sakura made him. For whatever reason, the dog always gave Sai a funny look whenever he looked at him. Sai guessed that Kakashi gave him his present. An hour after the party started, Kakashi finally decided to show up. While Naruto and Sakura were distracted by their late sensei, Sai took the opportunity to pour the pair some more home-made lemonade laced with a nice dosage of Tsunade's serum.
As planned, Yamato took his leave shortly after Kakashi arrived and Kakashi left with Pak-kun after he had eaten Sakura's food in a few seconds. Sai didn't even think he saw him remove his mask, though Sakura and Naruto were both staring at his face intently as if they were trying to sneak a peek. The look on their faces afterwards showed that they weren't successful in their endeavor. Now it was him and his two teammates left in Sakura's apartment. Sakura and Naruto were chatting animatedly about the time when they tried to peek at Kakashi's face long ago. Sai didn't think he would ever understand the strange bond that Team 7 had. He was at least grateful that they considered him a part of the team.
Glancing at the clock on the wall, Sai smiled as he noticed that twenty minutes had passed since they drank from their glasses of lemonade. They were already showing some signs of the drug's effects. Naruto had his eyes glued on Sakura with a permanent smile on his face while Sakura was sitting almost too close for comfort next to her teammate on the couch. They were so engrossed in their conversation with each other that Sai didn't think they remembered he was even in the room.
"Naruto, can I touch your whiskers? I've always wanted to know how they feel," Sakura asked in a low voice.
"You can touch anything of mine, Sakura-chan," Naruto purred.
"Perverted Baka," Sakura giggled as she smacked him playfully on the shoulder. Inching her face closer, she reached out for Naruto's face gently letting her fingers glide over the pronounced facial marks.
"Careful Sakura-chan, they're sensitive," Naruto laughed. It looked like Naruto was trying to restrain his hands from moving using all his willpower to keep them at bay.
Unfortunately for Naruto, Sakura wasn't going to help him in his quest to remain a gentleman as she bent down to his ear and whispered, "Just like you, you know?"
Naruto lost his restraint as one hand wrapped itself around Sakura's waist and the other tenderly cupped her face, inching towards her pink hair.
Before Naruto could reach her hair, Sakura pulled back and said with a cute pout, "I don't recall you asking if you could touch my hair."
A low guttural growl replaced shortly by a soft whine did nothing to change Sakura's mind as Naruto tried to nuzzle her neck. The serum must have given him a bigger set of balls, which amused Sai to no end. But even with Naruto's new sense of assertiveness, Sakura still held the reigns on the situation. Sai had read that typically the female is more dominant in the relationship than the male. He thought it odd that the container of the Kyuubi could be reduced to a pile of whimpering flesh all because of a girl.
Taking a deep breath, Naruto calmed himself and whispered as he tentatively fingered her pink locks, "So, Sakura-chan, can I touch your hair? I've always wanted to know if it's as soft as it looks."
Sakura leaned her head into Naruto's hand and sighed. She pulled her face closer to Naruto's as he responded in kind. "You can touch anything of mine, Naruto-kun."
As they both drew closer for a kiss, Sai decided that it was time for him to take his leave. He wanted to see them both admit their love for each other, not make love to each other. He quietly left the couple as they were locked in a deep kiss. Once he left Sakura's apartment, he realized that he had left his sketch pad on her coffee table. He was about to reenter her apartment, but decided against it when he heard a few moans of pleasure coming from behind the door. He really didn't need his sketch pad that badly. Besides, he had a few extra lying around his apartment.
The next morning Sai made his way back to Sakura's apartment to retrieve his wayward sketch pad. He knocked on her door and waited patiently for her to answer. After a few minutes of no response, he tried again. Still, no response. He tried the door and was surprised to find it unlocked. Wasn't Sakura supposed to be a smart girl? Why didn't she lock her door? When Sai entered her apartment, he found out the reason why she forgot to lock her door. Smiling to himself, Sai found his sketch pad and sat down on the floor drawing the scene in front of him. It looked like his mission was a huge success.
Sai silently left the room after he had finished his sketch. It was time to report to the Hokage on the results of his mission. When he entered her office, there were no sake bottles littering the desk or two drunken sannin making bets. Instead, Tsunade sat busy working on some scrolls like an attentive Hokage, which was not something Sai was expecting.
"Oh, Sai! Good to see you today. So how is your mission so far?" Tsunade asked as she looked at him with a hint of worry.
Sai took out his sketch pad and tossed it towards the Hokage. "Mission accomplished."
Tsunade looked at the drawing with a barely suppressed smile. "It looks like you did an excellent job on your mission. You didn't stay and watch did you?"
"No, Hokage-sama. I left before things got out of hand. Though I will have you focus your attention towards Sakura's hand, especially the left hand."
Tsunade gasped as she saw what Sai was referring to, "When did that little brat buy this?"
"It's actually a lock of Naruto's hair. Since he does have blond-hair, I had to use that color to fully depict the scene."
Tsunade smiled tenderly as she handed the picture back to Sai. "I never thought I'd see the day. I actually won my bet against Jiraiya. Thank you for the mission report Sai, you're dismissed."
Sai bowed ready to leave the room.
"Yes, Hokage-sama?" Sai asked as he turned back towards Tsunade.
"The serum I gave you? It was actually a placebo. I didn't realize I gave you the wrong vial until this morning. But seeing how things turned out, I guess we didn't need to encourage them that much and they were fine on their own. I thought I'd let you know."
"Thank you Hokage-sama," Sai smiled as he left the room.
Sai spent the rest of the day in his apartment transferring the sketch of Naruto and Sakura into a painting. Kakashi and Yamato had come by to ask how things went after they left. When Sai showed them the picture, they were rendered speechless with blushes adorning their faces. Before they left, Kakashi had made a suggestion of not showing the painting to either Naruto or Sakura. Sai nodded and smiled, telling him that he had no intention of showing it to them until it was time.
Taking a break from painting, Sai helped himself to a cup of tea as he looked out the window of his studio apartment. The sun was starting to set casting a beautiful array of yellow and pink across the horizon. His eyes fell onto a couple walking down the street while they held hands. There was no mistaking the orange and black outfit of Naruto's or Sakura's pink hair. It looked like Sakura was swinging around a gift bag in her right hand as the couple talked intimately with each other. As Naruto leaned down to give Sakura a kiss, Sai finally noticed the glimmer of light flash off of Sakura's left hand. It looked like they replaced the lock of hair with something real. Sai guessed that in the end they really didn't need his help. He just hoped that they liked the wedding present he was going to give them.