Mint colored eyes stare up at a white ceiling, the fluorescent lights above rushing by. Two, three, five, seven. She's losing count. A familiar scent invades her nostrils, drawing her mind away from numbers and the slight discomfort in her head every time she tries to look around. It smells like lavender and antiseptic. Her hospital. She would know this particular array of smells anywhere and feel at home.
Sakura is suddenly aware of voices buzzing around her and the faint sound of wheels on cold linoleum tile. She memorized that too.
Blinking. Blinking too quickly, too much light. She tries to speak, wanting someone to turn down the brightness. But a croak escapes her lips instead of words and she's surprised. She can't talk. And someone pleads with her not to.
How silly, Sakura thinks. Why shouldn't I speak?
Snippets of conversation wiggle their way into her ears but her brain feels sluggish, refusing to process the entirety of what the voices are saying. The pink haired ninja sighs, annoyed that she isn't able to understand a single thing that is happening to her. Why is there so much white? And someone really needs to change those god awful paintings in the Intensive Care Unit.
"Critical…heart…Tsunade, immediately," the voices sing in their broken sentences. But the name of her sensei, the great Tsunade, lures her out of her peaceful reverie. The last time she saw her, she recalls listening to Lady Hokage read a mission off a scroll. That seems like lifetimes ago.
More white. Sakura is aware that she's having trouble breathing.
A mission. A mission in a far away land. She nearly remembers. The tan skin of Shikamaru and the tickle of his breath on her shoulder. Why was he standing so close? Silver hair and a concerned gray orb staring down at her, cold stars winking behind his head. Was there panic is his eyes?
Pain. Suddenly she thinks about hot, searing pain and Sakura's eyes widen. It's like a window has opened, letting in a clear, crisp breeze to brighten the dusty corners of her mind. She was injured on a mission, she realizes.
She was dying.
Sakura is desperately trying to tell the medics something but her voice refuses to work. Her senses sharpen and her head whirls, reality snapping back into place like a rubber band. Her nose is drenched in the smell of iron and blood and sweat. The ninja begins to panic, her heart painfully stuttering in her chest. Roaring, blinding hot agony shoots up her entire body and she thrashes around in her stretcher. Someone is screaming.
It must be me, she thinks.
"We're losing her!" someone shouts as they rush her towards the two double doors that will lead her into the operating room. They begin sticking her with tubes and IVs and an oxygen mask. Green chakra hands glare all around her, ready to be utilized.
Sakura thinks she might lose her mind. She can't speak and she has to tell them. They have to know. She's dying.
"Wait!" a man calls, his deep voice crackling against the blur of sound around her. Sakura hears him right as she reaches the double doors, about to be sealed away into the sterile chamber, her life hanging by a thread. She unclenches her fingers and reaches out for him, just a slight outstretch of her arm. She has to touch him.
One more time.
"Wait! Please!" the man shouts out again. He's restrained by other shinobi telling him he can't follow her. Not where she's going.
"She's pregnant!" he screams to the closed double doors. "She's four months pregnant!"
After hearing this, more people rush into the operating room and surround her. She's suffocating. The man's voice rings out in her ears like a siren and a lighthouse, both alarming and alluring. Her hand flutters down to her stomach and when she brings it up to her face, she sees it drenched in her own blood. The lights above Sakura slowly blink out, the whirl of faces she almost remembers nothing but hints of flesh and worried eyes.
Darkness embraces her like a cold welcome home.
The man who had warned the medics that she was with child, distraught and desperate, grips the shirt of the shinobi who is holding him back from stumbling in after Sakura. The silver haired ninja, his one visible gray eye trembling with fear, can only stare after the double doors as they swing closed. Shikamaru looks up at Kakashi and bows his head, giving his shoulder a reassuring squeeze.
"Oh man. I wish she had told someone earlier that she was expecting…"
Kakashi brushes him off and tries to hide the fact that his knees are weak. He looks at the younger man sadly and hopes to enlighten him as to why the most calm and collected ninja in all of the Leaf Village was suddenly crumbling to small, silver pieces.
"That baby is mine."
Six Months Earlier
Sakura eyes flutter open. The sunlight is bright already, bothersome. He forgot to shut the blinds and they slept in too late.
She rolls over, the white sheets of his bed wrapped loosely around her waist as she kisses his broad shoulders. The man next to her barely stirs as she watches the rise and fall of his ribcage. He's still deep in the stupor of his sleep, or so she thought until she sees a quick tremor in his hand when her lips press to his skin.
Faker, she thinks to herself.
Sakura smiles and her slim fingers trace the bold contours of his shoulder blades, skimming her fingernail down the ridge of his spine; his favorite spot to be touched. Her companion shivers violently and then chuckles, his sleepy voice rumbling out into the silence of her bedroom,
"Okay, okay. You caught me. I'm awake."
Yamato turns over and faces Sakura now, his strong arms curling around her and snatching her closer. The young kunoichi smiles against his neck. He smells like the aftermath of their night together and sandalwood, always the creamy fresh scent of sandalwood. Sakura buries herself in it, wishing to sink her entire being into Yamato's embrace; she did not want to face today. And she knew that Yamato would have no objection to staying in bed with her all day and do nothing if he could.
"What time is it?" he mumbles tiredly against her soft pink hair, his almond shaped eyes gazing lazily at the window as he tries to discern the time from the position of the sun. It's already late afternoon. Both of them are very late for work.
"About 1:47," she replies, glaring at the clock on his nightstand from over Yamato's shoulder. He groans suddenly, plastering her neck, collarbone, and shoulders with quick kisses, tightening his grip around her small body as he crushes her to him. Sakura laughs as they mutually try to squeeze each other as tight as they can, trying to forget about responsibility and duty for just a few moments longer.
"I don't want to leave this bed. Ever," Yamato sighs, his strong hands curling up into her cherry blossom locks. Sakura closes her eyes and hums her agreement against his collarbone. But the moment is short lived as her captain pries himself away from her. Sakura won't surrender so easily, latching her arms around his neck until Yamato is laughing as he drags her across the bed, trying to get out of it.
"Don't leave me," she says with a pout, collapsing back down when he untangles himself from her. Yamato's eyes take her all in at once, trying to sear the memory of this moment in his brain; her bright messy hair tumbling over her shoulders, soft full lips turned down in a cute little frown as the bed sheet slips farther down her body, revealing more of her perfect curvaceous frame. His eyes stare into her beautiful spring green gaze and he wants nothing more than to crawl right back into her arms.
Yamato leans down and kisses her softly. His thumb strokes her cheek and he taps his forehead to hers. He smiles gently.
"I couldn't leave you even if I tried."
And with that, Yamato starts dressing himself. He rummages through his apartment for a clean pair of dark shinobi pants. Sakura watches patiently as he tugs them on, getting ready for his day. The long sleeve navy blue shirt comes next over his strong torso and back. His jonin flak jacket hangs over his desk chair and he shrugs it on hurriedly. He's very late. But that's how most mornings with Sakura went.
"Sakura, have you seen my—" he turns around to face her, wondering where his faceguard his. The jonin smiles and chuckles as he sees Sakura kneeling in his bed, perfect in all her naked glory, with his leaf shinobi helmet placed on her cute face. It's a little big, nearly coming down over her eyes. She peers up at him though, her usual alluring 'come and get it' smirk on her face. Dangerous little vixen she is, always tempting him to choose her over work.
She wins quite often.
But not today. Yamato reaches over and carefully extracts his faceguard from her. Her pink hair falls over her eyes and he smooths it back before placing a kiss on her forehead. Sakura smiles sadly.
"I'll see you soon."
With that, his helmet tucked neatly under his arm, Yamato takes his leave. Sakura watches him go and waits for the sound of his front door shutting closed before she throws herself down and sighs. Mornings with Yamato were always like this. They were hard to finish.
Lady Tsunade stares Yamato down as he stands before her. He's late. And the Hokage has grown tired of pretending not to know why. She feels as if she can still see Sakura's reflection in his eyes dark eyes.
The two of them, her favorite apprentice and one of the village's most esteemed shinobi, are getting sloppy with hiding their relationship. And since Yamato still resides as Team Captain, their affair is Tsunade's business. She dislikes being involved in the personal lives of her men but things like Sakura and Yamato happen. Often.
"Forgive me, ma'am, I lost track of time."
Tsunade holds her hand up, signaling him to stop the excuses. Yamato averts his eyes to the floor and bows his head a little, changing his body language to that of repentance. He stands there, hands to his side, feet apart, an excellent model of a Leaf Shinobi, all geared up and ready for anything.
But right now, she doesn't want to talk to the Captain of Team Kakashi. Rather, she wants to talk to Tenzo.
"Yamato…" she says with a heavy sigh, leaning back in her chair. The male picks his head up and looks at her cautiously. After a long stretch of silence, he answers,
The Hokage turns away from him, slowly, and stands. She watches the life of the Village pulse with vibrancy and afternoon sunlight. Children play in the streets with wooden kunai knives. Mothers sweep their porches while shopkeepers wrap up customer purchases. Everywhere Lady Tsunade looks, she can easily spot the forest green of the shinobi flak jacket. Some are on patrol. Others are on their lunch break.
A veteran ninja, Tsunade spots at a distance, tugs on the hand of his child, a small little girl with a blue dress. She smiles up happily at her father. And even all the way up from the Hokage's office, she can see the slightest of fear in his wife's eyes as she watches her daughter look adoringly at her father. The life of a shinobi. Honorable, brave, just.
And sometimes too quick.
"Lady Tsunade…" Yamato says carefully, drawing her attention away from the window.
The Sanin turns to her jonin and sighs. She looks down at the personnel files of Sakura and Tenzo before closing the manila folder and giving the Captain her attention.
"I hope you know what you're doing, Yamato."
She doesn't say about what, doesn't even give him a hint. But from the look in her eye, that cautious weary gaze that she's using to stare into him, Yamato knows. She's talking about Sakura.
"With all due respect ma'am, we both do. She's not a child anymore," he says, an argument he uses often with himself when the guilt sometimes sting a little too much after they're done making love. Yamato brushes the thought away and keeps his eyes locked on his Hokage's. He would stand his ground.
"No. She isn't. But there's more to Sakura than I think you'll ever begin to understand, Yamato." The King of the Leaf Village takes her seat once again and leans her elbows on the desk, clasping her hands together in front of her face. Yamato clears his throat.
"I think I do a fine job of taking care of her, ma'am. On the battlefield and off it." No one has yet to know about him and Sakura. Only the Hokage knows but that was an accidental occurrence. He's going to have to make his case over and over again with the time comes. If he can't win it with the Hokage, Sakura's most beloved teacher, maybe he doesn't deserve her.
Tsunade nods, brushing her blonde hair from her pale cheeks. "I don't doubt that you do, Yamato. You're a very thorough individual. A very caring person. You're more than capable of providing for her." The Hokage's hazel eyes, intricate and deep in thought, seem to look right through him. "But is she capable of providing for you?"
The thought rattles Yamato a little. But before the issue can be further elaborated, Tsunade picks up a scroll from her desk and hands it out for the shinobi to take. Yamato slips back into his professional attitude and opens it up, his eyes passing over the script swiftly. There's the slightest of tremors in his hand as he gets to the good part. Calmly, Yamato folds the scroll back up and tucks it into the inside of his jacket.
"Are we clear on your mission, Captain?" Lady Tsunade asks. "Do not let them leave the Land of Fire. No matter what it takes."
Yamato nods. "My team?"
"Waiting on standby for another hour. You still have some time to prepare yourself," she adds knowingly. When the silence drags on for a few more moments than necessary, Yamato politely asks,
"Is that all?"
Tsunade turns back around in her chair, standing up once again to look out over the village. Before she gets too lost in thought, she waves her hand dismissively. "Yes. You're free to go."
Yamato turns on the balls of his feet and heads for the door. His hand is on the knob when Lady Tsunade calls back to him,
"Captain Yamato?" She looks back over her shoulder at him, watching the tense stature of his shoulders. "Good luck."
His almond eyes darken a little, picking up on the slight double meaning of her words.
"Thank you, m'lady."
And with that Yamato exits, leaving Tsunade to brood over the fates of many as she watches the sun glare onto Konoha.
"When will you be back?"
Yamato sits on the edge of Sakura's desk at the hospital as she pours over mountains of paperwork. Her pen is in her mouth and she chews it on it lightly, a nervous reaction to either her enormous load of charts and files to sift through or his pending mission, Yamato doesn't know.
"I don't know. A week. Maybe two. It all depends, really," he says with a sigh.
"Depends on variables that I can't know, right?" she replies, a little bitingly at being left in the dark about his mission. Yamato gives her nose a light tap with his finger and chuckles.
"That's right. S ranks are classified."
"Yeah, yeah, I know already," she huffs, slightly annoyed as she swats his hand away. Yamato smiles and after checking over his shoulder to make sure no one is watching, he trails his thumb along her cheek softly, tracing the natural hint of blush on her smooth skin.
"Try not to miss me too much while I'm gone?" he asks playfully, dropping his hand back to his side. But Sakura catches the slightest hint of seriousness in his voice and looks up at Yamato. His lips are smiling but his eyes are telling a different story.
That's usually the problem with dating a shinobi. You never know when it'll be the last time.
"I'll try my best," she says with a smile, trying to ease the nerves that she knows are gnawing in his stomach. Making sure that no one is watching once again, Sakura's fingers go to his hand resting on his thigh and she gives it a squeeze. His fingers capture hers and bring her wrist up to his mouth so he can kiss the underside of it.
Yamato's always been a little obsessed with a tiny moon shaped scar there. He thinks it to be endearing.
"I'll see you soon," he says firmly, making a promise not only to her but to himself as he gets up to leave. Sakura nods and Yamato ruffles her pink hair up a bit, earning him another light swat.
"Go already," she hisses, "stop bothering me."
Yamato laughs, shouldering his backpack and heads for the front doors of the hospital. He gives a wave over his shoulder at her and Sakura watches, sadly once again, as he leaves her for the second time today.
A few minutes pass and Sakura finds herself already missing him terribly, watching the door to see if he'll come running back inside and ask for one more kiss before he goes. The clock ticks. Nothing. But Sakura knows better. Yamato and his team are probably already heading out, passing the main gate and into the outskirts of Konoha.
It's going to be a long two weeks, she decides.
To pass the time, and to get him off her mind, Sakura buries herself once again into her paperwork. Charts, files, prescriptions, notes. The work is endless. She sees a few patients, mostly some eager genin and the butcher who's complaining of chest pain.
Before she knows it, a few hours pass and it's nearly time to go home.
Sakura decides she might stop by Naruto's place and see what he's up to. Or Ino's. Either way, she needs to find some way to keep busy. She's no longer the type of girl to sit at home and brood over the absence of a man. Sasuke taught her that valuable lesson.
"Hey Sakura," chimes a familiar voice, pulling away from her thoughts, "What's up?"
The pink haired ninja smiles down at the chart she just signed off. Oh what perfect timing.
"Hey there Kakashi Sen—Oh! Sensei, your arm," she says, suddenly alarmed as she looks up at Konoha's copy ninja who is standing in front of her desk, arm rather bruised and burned. It's causing him quite a bit of pain, Sakura can tell, by the way he pulls his eyebrows together even though he tries to smile. Typical Kakashi Sensei.
"Oh this? This is nothing, really. Just a little sparring match with Naruto and well, he won. Again." The silver haired ninja is sweating slightly, beads of it skimming down the side of his face as he holds his bad arm steady. His one eye watches her as she gets up from her chair and goes to examine it. She tugs the sleeve back and presses soft fingers to the scalded skin.
He'll never say it out loud. He needs her to fix him up.
"Come on, then," she says with a sigh, tugging him along by the sleeve of his good arm, "Let's get you cleaned up."