Matchmaker, Matchmaker,

Plan me no plans

I'm in no rush.

Maybe I've learned

Playing with matches

A girl can get burned

-Fiddler on the Roof

"Unacceptable!" Tsunade barked, her eyes swiveling rapidly from a defiant Naruto, an expressionless Sasuke, and a weary-looking Sakura. "Brat, tell me you gave more than a second's thought before deciding to revive Uchiha Itachi from the dead! Without even bothering to consult anyone about it first!"

Sakura tensed, and avoided glancing over at the elephant in the room – an elephant who was currently in a semi-comatose state after his brief re-acquaintance with consciousness, and lay asleep in a corner of the medical tent they were sequestered in at the moment.

"Baa-chan, old man Hagoromo's chakra was about to run out – I didn't exactly have time to make a poll and get a vote. Itachi was there, and I had the power to bring him back, and I did." Naruto's voice was uncharacteristically composed.

"And you did this for the sake of Uchiha Sasuke?" Tsunade probed. There was an underlying inquiry of possible selfishness there, Sakura knew. Had he done this solely for the sake of his best friend? Placed the reputation and outwardly pristine history of the village at risk to prevent Sasuke from further spiraling into the anger and depression that had consumed him for so long a time?

"No." It was no small bit of surprise that Sakura surveyed Naruto with, her mouth slightly agape as the blonde continued on in a determined tone. "I did it because Itachi deserved it. You know he did, especially after…after everything he gave up for Konoha. For the people. For his brother. I'm gonna be the Hokage one day…and part of that means doing my damn best to help anyone who's ever placed their lives on the line for the sake of my village."

A tiny smile touched the corner of Sakura's lips in the silence that followed; a smile that twitched wider when she noted the stunned look Sasuke wore. Sasuke had missed out on a lot of Naruto's growth over the past few years – was he having difficulty reconciling the clumsy goofball of his childhood with the unyielding shinobi that stood before him now?

Tsunade slapped a hand over her eyes, a single sigh the only thing that betrayed her impatience and exhaustion with the situation. "Sakura."

She stepped forwards obediently. "Shishou?"

"You did a preliminary evaluation of him?" One of Tsunade's eyebrows quirked upwards. "And I can only assume that you were complicit in revitalizing the Uchiha, given how little chakra you seem to have left."

To her credit, Sakura managed not to wince at her teacher's words. "I did. He was initially unresponsive, extremely hypotensive, and, given that he'd been dead about five minutes previously, probably hypoxic. I stabilized him as best I could."

"Mental status?"

"Seemingly alert and oriented…for all of the two minutes that he was actually awake out there." Sakura bit her lower lip uncomfortably. "I'm going to need to work with him more to actually verify the extent of the damage."

"What woke him up?"

"She slugged Sasuke," Naruto interjected with a smirk. Sasuke scowled at his best friend from where he stood guardedly next to his brother.

"I see," Tsunade said, although not without a faint hint of amusement in her brown eyes.

"So…what's going to happen to my brother? And to me?" Another man's voice would have wavered. Sasuke's question was flat, almost impersonal…if it weren't for the way his hand clung tightly to his brother's limp one, fingers locked in place so as to prevent anything from separating the two.

One of the things people, both political allies and adversaries alike, loathed about the Fifth Hokage of Konoha was her impeccable poker face. Not during the actual game of course – the woman couldn't keep a straight face during poker to win so much as one measly coin. But when it came to decisions concerning her village, one could never fathom what Tsunade was thinking until she deigned to speak it. Therefore, as much as Sasuke scoured her expression for an answer, his efforts went unrewarded.

"It depends," Tsunade replied finally.


"Naruto and Sakura. On how far they are willing to take responsibility for you, how far they're willing to stand with you." The Godaime offered a brittle smile. "And Uchiha? You had better pray that they're capable of showing more compassion and more loyalty towards you than you've ever bothered to bestow upon them."

Sakura smiled apologetically at the patient before her, the tube of gel posed over the woman's protruding stomach. "It's going to feel a little cold," she said as warning, before squeezing the ultrasound jelly neatly onto the stretched skin of her abdomen.

The Hyuuga woman, as evidenced by her translucent eyes and dark curtain of hair, squirmed and let out a laugh for the first time during the appointment. "I always think I'm going to get used to that – but somehow, it keeps catching me by surprise."

"I don't blame you. I've never been one for chilly things either," Sakura said, moving the transducer along the woman's belly. "It's your first then?"

A shy nod. "Mm. Yuki-san – my husband – and I were married a little while before the war broke out. We wanted a to start a family, but in such times….well, it seemed cruel to bring a child into that sort of world. And then Yuki-san was sent to the front lines, and when he finally came back – " the woman broke off, cheeks coloring a soft pink. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to ramble on so."

Irresistibly reminded of the timid mannerisms of Hinata when the girl dared to speak about Naruto, Sakura grinned and shook her head. "It's fine, Hyuuga-san. After everything, it's wonderful to hear about happy endings like yours. And speaking of happiness – "

Grasping the ultrasound screen, Sakura turned it so that the grainy black-and-white image faced the examination table. The soft gasp, as only an awed mother could manage, filled the small room.

"About 20 weeks, I would say," she commented brightly, leaning down to peer at the monitor. "And she looks absolutely perfect, Hyuuga-san. Healthy and developing quite well."

While some doctors delivered such a spiel with practiced smiles, Sakura's beam was genuine and warm. Perhaps it was the effect of rarely being assigned to the prenatal unit and therefore less immune to the wonder of unborn babies and excited expectant mothers, but sometimes it made a nice change from having her hands drenched in blood and being elbow-deep in other bodily fluids as she fought to save the dying.

"Thank you, Haruno-san," came the gentle adulation from the other woman, snapping Sakura from her own musings. "And truly, it was an honor to be attended to by one of the most renowned heroes of the war." Pale eyes flicked up at the prominent green diamond on Sakura's forehead. "Although, truth be told, I feel terribly selfish taking up your time like this. Surely a medic of your caliber must have many more pressing cases to see to?"

As always, when faced with the disconcerting occurrence of being praised for her role in what had been one of the most agonizing, emotionally-wrecking periods of time in her life, Sakura grew flustered.

Sometimes, Sakura wished Madara would have wrapped her in one of those awful dream cocoons of his, if only to be spared confrontations with people who seemed to think that fighting like hell to save the lives of her best friends and stop a couple of unhinged villains was something exceptional to be praised about. Over and over and over again, until Sakura's cheeks ached from fake smiles and she wanted to scream.

She had only been brave because the situation had called for it, demanded it – for who else would have acted if not her and her teammates?

Sakura had been terrified the entire time, fearful for Naruto and Sasuke and Kakashi as they had battled a veritable goddess, and privately ashamed as she was forced to watch the backs of her teammates leaving her behind yet again in light of their preternatural new powers. And afterwards she had suffered, and still suffered, from nightmares that appeared with boiling lava threatening to swallow her and sharp swords that speared straight through her abdomen.

The renewal of such thoughts was a swift poison, killing the previous joy in her heart with efficacy.

Turning away, she began pulling the blue latex gloves off her hand. She lobbed them at the biohazardous waste bin, a bit harder than was necessary. Sakura replied in a subdued tone, "We're a bit short-staffed lately, I'm afraid. Many of our medics have applied for leave."

Maternity leave, that was. According to Tsunade-sama, this was a fairly common happening after every war. People survived, were utterly thankful to be alive and whole, and suddenly realized that abundant use of their reproductive organs was an excellent way to pass on one's genes should the next war be the one to snuff you out, as well as great stress relief.

As Sakura had yet to have so much as a first kiss even at the tender age of seventeen, never mind 'thank goodness we're still alive' sex, she couldn't quite attest to the veracity of that statement.

Although judging from Ino's perpetually smug expression these days, she certainly could.

Still, the whole situation was both a blessing in the way of boosting the populace numbers, and a curse in the fact that an abundance of pregnant, hormonal kunoichi were waddling about – most with the ability to reduce someone into a pile of dust should the words "Have you gained weight?" leave someone's mouth in their general vicinity.

"Haruno-san?" Both occupants of the room turned as the door creaked open, the starchy rustle of fabric preceding the nurse that poked her head in. "Sorry to interrupt, but you're needed on the second floor. It's that…er…time again, and we seem to be missing a certain patient."

Sakura's face went peculiarly pale as she realized what day it was.

Damn. Damn, damn, damn, damn. The mental diatribe echoed about mockingly in her head.

How could she have forgotten? Even more importantly, how dare that man deliberately play hooky on his check-up day?

Tersely, she turned on her heel, already heading towards the door. "It was a pleasure to help you Hyuuga-san. And Hiko-san," Sakura addressed the nurse. "Could you please help her to clean up and get her discharge papers ready? Thanks."

With that, she slipped into the whitewashed halls of the hospital corridor.

She knew without looking when he first began to stir. Saw the spike in his heart rate on the monitor, the rapid rhythm that signified bewilderment and panic. Felt the surge of his chakra, strong and nearly overpowering even in his weakened state.

Her first impulse was fear – regardless of the fact that Naruto and Sasuke had explained to her (and everyone else) the truth regarding Itachi's entire life as a missing-nin, it was still difficult to dispel her uneasiness about a man she had faced in battle and accordingly loathed as an enemy of Konoha and Naruto.

But now, Uchiha Itachi was her patient first, and a former foe second. And heaven knows that if she could manage to be cordial to Sasuke, who had actually tried to stab her with a sword, she could at least attempt the same with Itachi (who hadn't ever tried to stab her, so bonus points for him).

Also, she was fairly sure that if he tried anything she could easily beat him up. Or push a few milligrams of lorazepam into his IV to sedate him. Either way.

"You're awake," she observed quietly as she turned around, facing the hospital bed that had been his residence for the past few days. "Welcome back."

She rolled her eyes as Itachi ignored her (and after she'd actually tried to project some semblance of pleasantry, too!), seemingly in favor of struggling to pull the oxygen mask from his face before moving onto the needle lodged firmly in his forearm.

Sakura was generous enough to allow him to remove the mask, but was by his side in an instant, catching his hand, before Itachi could extricate himself from the IV.

"None of that," she scolded, green eyes snapping towards a pair of vigilant grey ones. "I've nearly killed myself trying to keep you alive these last few days – letting you die of dehydration would sort of render that moot, don't you think?"

It was a strained moment before Itachi nodded slowly, allowing Sakura to cautiously drop his hand and step back to allow both of them their individual space once again. If the way Itachi's lean figure had tensed at the sudden contact was any indication, the man really didn't seem inclined to invasive physical interactions.

But then again, most S-class shinobi did tend towards paranoia in light of the fact that nine out of every ten people they bumped into were most likely trying to maim, kill, or capture then.

"Why didn't you, then?"

Sakura started at the hoarse voice, staring at the Uchiha fate had bizarrely seen fit to make her the caretaker of. "Why didn't I what?"

"Let me die." A mirthless tilt of the lips, something that was so devoid of warmth Sakura couldn't even deem it a smile. It was closer to a hopeless grimace. "I was dead. And then I wasn't…and Kabuto was there…and Sasuke was…I said goodbye…to my brother…my brother…I was dead…" Itachi doubled over abruptly, hands clenched painfully against his head, the entire line of his body strung as tightly as a wire about to snap from unbearable tension.

Oh, hell. Sakura had been afraid of this. Contrary to what a shinobi's dangerous lifestyle implied, the greatest threat to their wellbeing usually came from within – in the form of post-traumatic stress.

Damn it, Naruto, she thought. You brought a man back from the dead, but you never considered the consequences for him did you?

Seeing Uchiha Itachi hunched in on himself, wane with fatigue and fairly vibrating from how violently he was shaking, Sakura felt sick. Sick when she really looked at him and realized how goddamn young Itachi must have been, sick when she realized that she could mend bones and repair tissue and neatly glue people's broken fragments together, but that she could never, never fix something like this.

She just…didn't know how. Once upon a time she had tried to fix a similarly broken boy, and all she had received for that effort was a lump on her head and waking up to morning sunlight on a freezing stone bench.

But…she was a medic. She was a human. And it wasn't in her nature to accept defeat or leave things in disrepair; wasn't in her nature to walk away from suffering. Sasuke would tell people to not be weak; Naruto would crack jokes and swear impossible, lovely things. All Sakura knew to do was what made her feel better.

So she knelt on that hospital bed in that tiny, sterile room, next to a strange man that she barely knew and had once trembled in fear of, and curled her arms as tightly around him as she possibly could.

It was often said that Sakura in a rage was a sight that could decimate even the strongest man's stoic exterior, reducing him to little more than a shuddering imitation of his former self. A miniature of her Tsunade-shishou, except exponentially more dangerous given that her sweet face and captivating green eyes did well in cloaking her temper until the unfortunate victim was receiving the brunt of it.

So when Haruno Sakura, eyes flashing, white coat flaring out behind her, and heels of her boots clicking menacingly, strode out of the hospital and into the streets of Konoha, both citizens and shinobi alike hastened to skitter away from the pink-haired girl's path. After all, only an idiot strayed near a hurricane or tried to engage a tornado. To date, only Uzumaki Naruto had been known to engage Sakura in such a mood – thus affirming that prior statement of idiocy.

She stomped by unfinished buildings, consisting now only of wooden frames (courtesy of Yamato-taichou) and unsecured beams, and makeshift houses erected to shelter those who had been unfortunate enough to lose everything in Pein's attack months before. Konoha's participation in the war had delayed its reconstruction to a sad degree, but the despondency Sakura normally would have been awash with was lost in her present ire at a certain dark-haired patient.

A certain dark-haired patient who apparently thought that it was acceptable to skip out on necessary medical visits after returning from the dead. And not only that, but to waste her time by forcing her to hunt him down.

Okay, so she wasn't exactly having to exert any master tracking skills to find him, given that she knew his current address and he wasn't likely to be anywhere else – the man was as private as Kakashi-sensei and seemed to shy from social functions like a person narrowly escaping his own impending demise.

But still. After six months of having a standing weekly appointment to evaluate his physical health, Sakura would have expected just a little bit of courtesy from him.


Sakura skidded to a stop in front of her intended destination, drawing some irritated looks as she nearly bowled a few pedestrians over in the process. She took the stairs of his building three at a time, fairly vaulting her way up to the fourth floor of the old brick complex where Itachi and Sasuke shared an apartment. It made sense that neither wanted to return to the long-abandoned Uchiha compound – there were too many ghosts and too many memories to allow for any hope of a peaceful life.

And Sakura had, of course, wholeheartedly approved, but right about her knees were desperately wishing the two Uchiha brothers had chosen to live somewhere that wasn't on the fourth-freaking floor. In an apartment building that had no elevators.

Her mood, already foul and plummeting rapidly by the second, manifested itself as she slammed an open palm on their front door. The surrounding walls shook with the impact.

"Oi, Uchiha!" she shouted, heedless of any other residents on the floor. "Two seconds! You have two seconds to open this door, and then I'm coming in. By force, if you don't know what I mean. Force! As in, my fist, your door, lots of broken wooden pieces as a result."

She tapped her foot and waited.

One kunai, two kunai, three kunai, four kunai…she counted mentally in her head. At five kunai, however, Sakura decided she had been more than generous. As her teammates could fervently attest, Sakura did not possess much in the way of patience.

Particularly with men intent on wasting her time.

So on the count of six kunai, she curled her hand back in a practiced movement, effortlessly alighting it with her characteristic green chakra, and calmly decimated Uchiha Itachi's front door.

She almost didn't recognize him when he walked into the examination room.

Granted, those dark eyes and angular, sleek features were unmistakable as belonging to one of the Uchiha clan, but his overall appearance was much different from the broken, tired man she had held against her a week or so before. That had been the limit of her interaction with him, as Itachi's time had largely since been monopolized by his younger brother and a host of fascinated medics led by Tsunade herself intent on seeing if Naruto's little reviving stunt would be permanent.

Which apparently it was, seeing as a much less emaciated Itachi was standing before her, looking relatively healthy.

She said relatively, because Sakura suspected that Uchiha men were just naturally prone to ridiculously pale skin and tired lines around their eyes that aged them up about ten years.

"Itachi-san," Sakura acknowledged. Not without a hint of awkwardness, because her mother, in all her infinite wisdom, had never exactly enlightened her on what the appropriate greeting was for a foe-turned-ally-that-you-had-unexpectedly-ended-up-hugging-during-an-emotional-outburst.


It was with difficulty that Sakura smothered a laugh. He was certainly politer than Sasuke at any rate, who probably would have dropped dead at the thought of addressing Sakura with any sort of respectful honorific. She waved her hand with an airy confidence she certainly wasn't feeling. "Just Sakura is fine. I assume Tsunade-shishou and the council informed you about your mandatory weekly physicals with me? As part of the deal you and Sasuke are getting?"

Itachi nodded, the strands of his loosely bound hair brushing against almost ridiculously beautiful cheekbones. Sakura wondered why of all the possible brothers in the world, Sasuke just had to bring home the one that was likely to set all of Konoha's eligible women aflame with desire. Remembering the adoring Sasuke fans of days past, Sakura couldn't help but shudder and hope Itachi had an abundance of forbearance.

They stared at one another for another minute, before Sakura cleared her throat. "Right. Well then, since you've already spent a few days being, er –"

"Poked and prodded?" Itachi supplied quietly.

Sakura snorted. "I was going to say 'examined', but I guess those work just as well." She gestured over at the standard exam table. "If you want to take a seat, I'll just be asking you a few questions. There's no need for a physical today."

As he complied, Sakura's gaze swept over the standard-issue, nondescript jounin pants and long-sleeved shirt he wore. She frowned as her clinical side caught the looseness of how the pants hung from his hips, and how his wing-like collarbones peeked out sharply from beneath the neckline of his shirt. He was still far too lean – she'd have to speak with him about that.

"Okay, so right to it." Sakura glanced down at her checklist. "In general, how have you been feeling?"


She jotted it down, resisting the urge to ask him to expound on that woefully succinct answer. "How would you describe your sleep patterns as of late?"


Sakura's eye twitched. She stared resolutely at her clipboard. "That's…good. And your appetite?"


Oh god. She took it all back – he was worse than Sasuke, if that were at all possible. She tilted her head forwards, hoping her hair would cover the murderous expression that was beginning to unfurl on her face. "And how would you say you've been coping so far with everything? I know your psychiatric evaluations are being done separately, but I just want to get a clear picture of everything."

And if anything, she felt sorry for the poor psychologist responsible for dealing with Itachi and Sasuke's weekly sessions. She really should send Kazuma-san a fruit basket or flowers or something.

"I have been fi—"

Sakura snapped.

"Itachi-san, if you use the word 'fine' in my presence one more time I am going to take this pencil," she held it up for inspection, "and ram it somewhere unpleasant. Very unpleasant. 'Fine' is not an emotion, and it is not a word I can glean anything from regarding your current health. In fact, I am now requiring that your answers are a minimum of six words. Six words, none of which are allowed to include 'fine'. Got it?"

She was gratified to see Itachi appearing at least a little bit surprised by her vigor, although she wasn't nearly as pleased when she observed the muted amusement in his eyes.

"Very well, Sakura. I do apologize," he said mildly.

Six words. Smart-ass.

Sighing, Sakura plodded forwards. The sooner she was finished with this, the sooner she could drown her frustrations with a tub of ice cream and whatever evening drama was on her television. "Have you been experiencing any problems with your memory? Any disorientation or confusion?

Itachi was silent for a moment, considering her with a contemplative expression. "A bit," he conceded at last. "I have found that my memories prior to Naruto-kun…reviving me are not entirely clear."

Interested, Sakura asked, "So it's only your long-term memory that's been an issue? What's the first thing you can remember well in the past few months?"

He gave her a wry look. "Waking up on the battlefield subsequent to your attempts at stabilizing me. Watching as my foolish little brother went flying a considerable distance after what was apparently an ill-timed comment, according to Naruto-kun."

A dull flush crept along her cheeks. She dutifully went along with the next follow-up question on her checklist. "And how do you feel about that memory?" she grumbled.


Sakura's head shot up in annoyance, her mouth already opening to tell Uchiha Itachi exactly where he could shove that word…only to catch his deliberately blank expression, the subtle tilt to his lips.

Uchiha Itachi, ex-missing nin, S-class shinobi and former Akatsuki and ANBU operative…apparently had a sense of humor, regardless of how much it sucked.

Sakura couldn't help it. She laughed.

Sakura plowed into the apartment, wood crunching under her boots and fully intent on finding Itachi and perhaps breaking his pretty nose. "Itachi!" she called out in annoyance again. "Itachi, get out here – ack!"

Her tirade was cut short by the emergence of a harried-looking Itachi, clad only in a towel and attempting to wring out his long, soaking-wet hair. Sakura hastily spun around, nearly losing her balance and smashing into an innocent coffee table.

"Sakura," Itachi greeted. If he was fazed at all by the fact that his door now lay in pitiful splinters on his living room floor, his calm demeanor certainly didn't betray it. "I apologize for being delayed in letting you in. Although I see you've already taken care of whatever grievances you had with my door."

"That's not my fault! Didn't you hear me calling for you?"

"I heard. I also incorrectly assumed that you would be patient enough to wait for me."

Sakura threw her hands up in the air, still meticulously avoiding the sight of her half-naked patient. "Okay, so I apologize for that. But that still doesn't cover the matter of what you're doing here!"

"Taking a shower?" Itachi commented dryly. "Of all the things to be angry with me for, that was least expected. You continue to surprise me, Sakura."

"Not taking a shower! I mean – er, do you have anything on? I'd like to yell at you face-to-face."

She could practically visualize that damn eyebrow of his quirked in amusement. Sakura heard his footsteps as he headed into his room, and only turned when the painful creak of his bedroom door signified his return.

Sakura breathed a sigh of relief when she saw him clad in his regular dark shirt and pants, although her relief transformed back into annoyance when she remembered her reason for coming – and that reason had absolutely nothing to do with gawking at Uchiha Itachi.

Folding her arms tightly, her green eyes flashing and hair crackling angrily, she snapped, "You skipped out on your physical today. You've been doing well for months, so why choose now to do this? Itachi, you can't do crap like this. You know that your stay, not to mention Sasuke's stay, in Konoha is dependent on you following the check-ups and evaluations the council laid out for you."

Frowning, Itachi began, "Sakura – "

"No! They need to know that you're compliant. That you're doing well. That you're not a danger. I know you're not, and you know that, but for now you have to jump through the stupid hoops that the elders decided on, because otherwise you and Sasuke don't get to live. Do you understand that?"

Her harsh breathing echoed deafeningly in the sparsely furnished apartment. Sakura glowered furiously at a potted plant nestled on the windowsill – a moving-in present from Kakashi-sensei. Hers had been laundry detergent (she prided herself on being ever-practical) and Naruto's had been an obscene pile of instant ramen. And…Sakura didn't really know why she was even thinking of this anyways.

"Is that why you're upset? Because you thought I disobeyed, thereby placing Sasuke's re-acceptance into the village in jeopardy?"

Sakura blinked at the question. Itachi was watching her carefully, his expression as indecipherable as ever – just one of those things Sakura had come to regard over the past months as being uniquely him. Naruto was her loud-mouth, Kakashi-sensei was her porn-reading sensei, Sai was her adorably socially-impaired teammate, Sasuke was the one with a stick lodged firmly up his ass, and Itachi was her odd, blank-faced friend.

"Aren't you supposed to be a genius, Itachi?" Sakura exhaled tiredly, brushing displaced strands of pink hair from her eyes. "No, I wasn't just worried about Sasuke. I'd like to think that we're friends…I was worried about you as well. That's kinda what friends do, after all." She refrained from tacking on 'idiot' to the end of her sentence.

"I see." Sakura squeaked as Itachi – emotionally-constipated, allergic-to-physical-contact Uchiha Itachi – walked over to her, resting his hand softly on top of her mussed pink hair. "Sakura, I apologize. I didn't purposefully miss our meeting. One of the hospital staff sent a missive saying you wouldn't be able to see me today."

Sakura had never really been aware of how much taller than her Itachi was, but was acutely conscious of it now that she found herself tilting her head back to gaze up at him. "What?"

He smirked faintly, grey eyes so much warmer than when she had first met him all those months ago. "Did you really think I would risk inciting your wrath? I haven't forgotten our first appointment, where you threatened to ram your pencil somewhere highly unpleasant."

Sakura remembered that meeting too, given the way her face turned an unflattering crimson hue. Stupid Uchiha and their stupid perfect recall.

For that matter, stupid Uchiha and their sudden decisions to invade her personal space, especially when they smelled all clean and good and….She had the sudden, horrific revelation that her cheeks might have been pink due to an entirely different reason, and quickly backed away from Itachi.

"Okay then." She averted her eyes, fussing about as she sought to straighten her white lab coat. "So obviously, a miscommunication happened somewhere. I better, ah, get back to the hospital and figure out what went on."

Shuffling back towards the door, aware that Itachi was still attentively watching her, she mumbled one last apology about the mess and fled.

Nurse Hiko was smothering laughter as she rejoined the others in the break room, drawing knowing looks from her coworkers.

"So?" Another nurse asked eagerly, veritably bouncing on her feet. "How'd it go? How'd it go? Did she fall for it?"

Hiko pressed her lips together, gravely surveying the room full of nurses and medic-nin. Finally, she allowed herself a wily grin, shattering the anticipation. "She did."

Squeals and laughter rent the air.

"So Hiko-san canceled Uchiha-san's appointment, and that sent Sakura-san rushing to his apartment?" Another med-nin queried with a smile.

Hiko laughed. "Yes, and who knows what might have happened? We're just pushing things along, is how I like to think of it."

One newer medic-nin who had recently been shadowing Sakura in the hospital clapped her hands happily. "It's so adorable – every time he shows up, you can just tell how utterly smitten he is with her."

"Last week I saw him smile at her! Oh, he was so handsome!"

"He is still a little scary, to me at least," another nurse admitted. "But whenever Uchiha-san is around Sakura-san for his appointments it is sweet how much he softens."

"And Sakura-san is normally really tough around the hospital, but you can so tell she gets all flustered around him."

"The ex-missing-nin, revealed to be a hero, and the beautiful medic-nin that can break through his stoic façade. Ooooh, it's like a romance novel!"

"Someone needs to write that novel!"

"I would buy it!"

"So would I!"

"I have a brother in publishing!"

And in the middle of the Konoha, Sakura had a sudden premonition of imminent disaster coming her way.

Author Note: Hey guys! Wow, it's been a while - hope everyone is doing well. Sorry for the inactivity...I have to admit the ending of Naruto kind of got me down and killed my desire to write for it for a while. But I had a recent burst of love for ItaSaku, and I just had to write something for them. It's been a long writing hiatus for me, so forgive me if I'm a bit rusty at it.

Also I'm trying for a more open and unreserved Itachi here, given that we've seen in the manga that he really did have a gentle demeanor. I'm thinking that now he's been given a fresh start in Konoha with Sasuke, that side of him will emerge a bit more.