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It’d be a lie to say he’d never looked at Sakura and thought about it—Kiba has eyes, of course he’s thought about it—but there’s never been any real intent behind it.

He’d rib Naruto for his obnoxious crush, sure, or try to draw Shino out or make Hinata blush with increasingly vulgar comments or trade raised eyebrow looks with Shikamaru every time the whole pack of them tumbles into a bar somewhere only to discover that Ino had convinced Sakura into something unlikely, with too many sheer panels or sequins. But it was never anything real. Never anything that Sakura would have overheard and been hurt by, never overheard and misconstrued.

And, of course, for the longest time Sakura was bright pink and cried easily and pulled her punches and was so in love with Uchiha Sasuke that she didn’t have eyes for anything else, and it was easy to dismiss her into a category that was off limits for so many reasons. And then, even when she wasn’t anymore, or wasn’t only anymore, or maybe hadn't ever really been but had cemented the impression of having been too solidly to ever not be anymore, she was Sakura—who had tagged along now and again to Team 8 practices and on missions for that first year where she was alone and furious with nowhere to put it, who had put her head together with Shino to discuss poisons and specialized vasculature, who had tucked her arm into Hinata’s and pulled her out to lunches and shopping trips and into quiet conversations about expectations and how to live up to them, out of them. She was just Sakura, a planet in his solar system, the two of them orbiting the same star but otherwise separated by more miles than was really fathomable.

So, really, if Kiba was going to be struck dumb one day, hands trembling with how much he wants to reach out and touch, he would have thought it would have happened sooner than some fifteen plus years of knowing one another.

Akamaru whines and then sighs, slumping his full weight against Kiba’s side.

Kiba absentmindedly drops one hand to pet him on the nose.

There’s a loud bang, some shouting, and a patch of trees on the far side of the training ground explodes violently.

Kiba makes a small, choked sound that sticks to the back of his throat.

“Did she kill him?” Ino demands of Hinata, her body tense as she stares, the action too far away and smothered by the forest for them to tell what exactly is going on.

Hinata threads her fingers tighter together, but doesn’t look away. “Uchiha-san dodged out of the way before her punch could connect, but he was hit by the resulting shock wave and I believe that he has sustained multiple rib fractures.”

Ino hisses out a sound that is too animalistic to call pleased.

Kiba sinks slowly to the ground, his knees giving out a bit.

They all listen with bated breath as Hinata narrates the last twenty minutes of the fight between Sakura and the Uchiha, her quiet commentary punctuated by the odd fireball or expletive.

Finally, there’s an extremely primal scream followed by a dust plume billowing up through the decimated forest, and Hinata falls quiet, her lips pinching.

From the tree line stalks a bloody figure.

Sakura’s mouth is cracked open on an ill-fitting grin and there are rapidly healing burns spanning her right torso and they all very carefully look away from her red-rimmed eyes.

Kiba’s heart sinks, and he tries to not think too hard on the curve of her fists at her sides or the blood streaked across her forehead or the strength in her thighs as she stalks towards them.

Ino meets her halfway, and she tucks Sakura under her arm, the sheltering gesture almost incongruous to the violence lining Sakura’s frame, except for the way her eyes are dew on new growth.

Kiba moves to— stand, maybe, he doesn’t know, but Akamaru shifts his weight and pins him in place.

Ino and Sakura disappear, leaving the rest of them in silence.

At the edge of his range, Kiba can sense the Uchiha slinking away to lick his wounds in silence.

A snarl creeps up from deep in Kiba’s chest.

Good riddance.

Around him, as if released from a spell, everyone else is starting to stand, muttering in pairs or quietly appraising what was supposed to be a “friendly little spar”.

Hinata bends and places a hand on Kiba’s shoulder, questioning. Behind her, Shino raises an eyebrow.

Kiba shakes his head.

It’s nothing.

It’s just that Sakura had moved and it was like she had stood still while the world moved around her and, Kiba thinks, he maybe fell in love in that moment.

It’s nothing.

There’s nothing here to see.

Kiba stands, shaking off the illusion.

It doesn’t break.

This, he thinks to himself as they walk away from the destruction in the forest behind him, this is going to be a problem.