The trek to Konoha Community Park was a familiar one for both Sakura and Zeus.
Every day, without fail, Sakura would take her beloved Scottish terrier for two walks: one first thing in the morning, the other at night after her evening classes. And every Sunday, weather permitting, they bypassed their usual two-mile circuit around their block and headed for the park instead.
Zeus was always a little rambunctious on Sundays; for having no perceivable concept of time, Sakura always marveled at the fact that her dog – perfect and exceptional in every way, of course – seemed to have no trouble at all discerning when it was time for their typical walk and when it was their special Sunday Dog Park day. Without requiring any instruction from her whatsoever, every Sunday morning Zeus would tug her right down Elm Street instead of taking their usual left onto Highland.
She certainly understood his enthusiasm. Sakura was relatively new to the city, and had yet to make many friends. Her neighbors knew her as a quiet, busy girl who could be counted upon to return their mail if she received it by mistake, but beyond that made moves to keep to herself. Her coworkers at the bank knew her to be friendly and focused, but a little obsessed with her schooling, given that she kept a thick Anatomy and Physiology text underneath her computer desk for light reading during slow times. Her classmates at the medical school she'd recently enrolled in thought her to be a teacher's pet, given her constant presence in Dr. Tsunade's lab.
But her study habits – legendary, and bound to pay off in the end – weren't Zeus's fault. She'd adopted him off the streets when he was around four months old, likely abandoned by his former owner, and he'd been with her in the years since, her constant companion and the only living creature she ever made time for. She doted on him, and in return, he'd been the most loving, loyal companion, one who deserved to be well-fed, regularly-exercised, and on Sundays, healthily socialized.
Sunday, October 9th, hadn't started out any different than any other Sunday.
She'd made herself breakfast – pumpkin pancakes, an autumn favorite – and scooped a little of the excess pumpkin (unsweetened, of course) into Zeus's dog bowl as a weekly treat. While he spent an inordinate amount of time licking his own black mustache for every last particle, Sakura had dressed quickly into her slim black workout pants and tugged her running jacket on over her sports bra and tank top. Zeus waited at the door, barking madly, tail wagging, certain in his Scottie way of the day and its significance for his life: where Sakura struggled to make friends in this busy new city, he'd had absolutely no such problem.
At Konoha Community Park, Zeus was a celebrity.
"All right, boy, let me get your toys!" she said, laughing, when Zeus began whining his impatience.
A typical Sunday morning, by all accounts. Sakura, laden down with Zeus's favorite rope toy, three tennis balls, a bottle of water, a portable dog bowl to pour it in, a bag of treats for his friends, a little cup of spare food if he became hungry, a medical text for her, and Zeus himself on a leash, had left the building at a light jog. Zeus was rammy but well-trained, and knew to keep the pace Sakura chose.
True to form, he'd hung a right on Elm Street, and they arrived at ten AM, the time of day when the park was busiest.
There were two enclosures in the dog park, one for very large dogs, and another for smaller breeds like Zeus. Forever deluded, Zeus would lead Sakura every Sunday to the enclosure for very large dogs (she suspected he might be enamored of an eighty-four pound Great Dane named Miss Quincy), and every Sunday she would laughingly redirect him to the small breed enclosure.
And Sunday, October 9, was no different.
She shut them both inside the small entrance way between two gates before removing Zeus's leash, and kneeling down to give him kisses.
"Look, baby, Taco's here!" she cooed, pointing to a little brown dachshund who'd let out a triumphant howl of joy at seeing his Scottie friend about to join him. Zeus's tail wagged so furiously that Sakura suspected it might fly off. "Are you ready to go?"
He barked his eagerness.
"Okay, baby, have fun!" she said, opening the second gate.
Zeus took off like a shot.
Every Sunday was the same thing. Zeus would reunite with his friends, the regular frequenters of the dog park. There was a one-eyed English bulldog named Cyclops, owned by a nice man who wore an eyepatch and an allergy mask and rarely looked up from his book; a gray, spotted cocker spaniel named Inkblot owned by a pale college-age kid who often brought his sketchbook along; and of course Taco, Zeus's best friend in the world, whose owner was a blonde guy named Naruto who'd introduced himself several weeks prior.
Nothing out of the ordinary today. All the usual suspects were there, and while their dogs played together the humans kept pretty much to themselves; Sakura chose her favorite spot, a corner of the enclosure in the sun, leaned back against the wooden fence post, and opened her book to study while her baby boy had the time of his life with his friends.
Nothing out of the ordinary, of course, until someone new joined their ranks. A very tall, very handsome someone new with his four-legged friend strode calmly, purposefully up to the small dog enclosure, shut the first gate behind them, removed the leash from his pet, and opened the second gate with a whispered, "Have fun."
Sakura's jaw dropped as the tall newcomer released his little white cat into the dog pen.
All activity in the dog pen halted at the arrival of this foreigner.
But the little white cat looked supremely unaffected as she strutted confidently up to Zeus and his gang of mutts.
Sakura shut her book with a nervous THWAP and half-rose to her feet; to her knowledge, Zeus had never met a cat before besides one distressing altercation at his last vet appointment where he'd growled something fierce and scared the wits out of a fat old Persian due for her rabies shot. She liked the dog park and doubted very much that she would be welcomed back if it was her rough little dog that turned that poor cat into mincemeat.
She looked up at the voice and saw the new guy who'd brought the cat inside. He was standing near her, not quite close enough to make proper conversation, and he appeared completely unruffled at the fact that he'd introduced a small cat into an enclosure full of its natural enemies.
"The cat's fine," he clarified, at the bemused expression on her face.
"Are you sure? I mean…"
"She's fine," he reiterated, with a touch of aggravation.
Sakura stood anyway, ready to intervene if Zeus showed the slightest inclination to start a fight.
The new guy leaned back carelessly against the fence and took out his phone, completely uninterested in the scene.
Zeus just appeared confused as the cat jogged up to him with a friendly meow. The other dogs looked at her with their heads cocked to the side, trying to assess the danger; it was Taco who effected bravery and barked loudly, a warning bark, to stop her from coming any closer.
The cat ignored him and meowed back. Not quite an angry hiss, but definitely not the capitulation Taco seemed to expect.
"Are you sure she's okay?" Sakura couldn't help but ask. "I mean…"
"She needs some social interaction," the guy said flatly, not looking up from his phone; Sakura glimpsed that he was playing Fruit Ninja. "They don't make cat parks as far as I know. She's basically a dog."
"Are you always this annoying?" he snapped.
Affronted, she narrowed her eyes and opened her mouth to curse him colorfully, before he added, "Look. See?"
She glanced back at the animals and, to her shock, saw the cat heartily licking Zeus's face; her little black puppy's tail wagged happily in response. Having won over the leader, the cat meowed in satisfaction and without another moment's hesitation, joined in their playful fight over Zeus's rope toy, immediately one of the gang.
Sakura giggled and leaned back against the fence beside the new guy.
"You were right," she said. "Your cat's a tough little thing! I'm impressed."
"I'm Sasuke," he said.
October 9th had been a normal morning.
"You didn't tell me your name last week."
"I thought I was annoying."
"Tch. You are."
October 16 had arrived, and so did Sasuke and Cat. When she'd pressed him the prior week about his cat's name, he'd told her it was 'Cat,' and she had laughed, and he had called her annoying.
Somehow, though, she was unsurprised to see them back today. Cat met up with Zeus and the other dogs and they were off and running, leaving their humans to exchange not-quite-pleasantries by the fence.
"Your dog's the black one?" asked Sasuke. He was playing Fruit Ninja again.
"Yep. His name is Zeus."
"Tch. And I have the pet with the ridiculous name."
"You have no imagination, clearly."
"And you're fucking deluded if you think that that little shit is Zeus-like."
Sakura looked up from her medical text, amused. "What, exactly, makes something Zeus-like?"
Sasuke didn't blush, but he didn't answer either.
"You're right about cat parks, though," she said after a few moments' companionable silence. "There are dog parks all over but where do cats go to hang out with other cats?"
"They're not as social as dogs," Sasuke murmured. "Mine's just weird."
"I think she's sweet," Sakura said, as Cat, apparently aware that she was being discussed in a positive way, ditched the other dogs and wound her way through Sakura's legs, nuzzling her white head against Sakura's black pants and leaving a fair amount of hair behind.
"I never had a cat before," Sakura went on, as she knelt to pet the pretty newcomer.
"She likes you," Sasuke observed baldly.
He'd put his phone away, and he was looking right at Sakura in a way that made her feel unprepared.
"What's not to like?" she asked with a teasing smile to ease the tension that had coiled in her stomach.
Sasuke rolled his eyes.
On Sunday October 23, Sasuke and Cat were at the dog park before Sakura and Zeus even arrived.
"You're early," she said brightly once they stepped through the second gate. "No Fruit Ninja?" she added with a giggle; his phone was in his pocket, for once.
"No obnoxious medical textbook?" he countered.
"I felt like a break today," Sakura lied easily.
Truthfully, she hadn't been getting much studying done at the dog park lately. The past two times she'd been distracted more so than usual; Sasuke was a good conversationalist (perhaps not eloquent or even nice, but he said things she found interesting) and it was more fun watching their pets socializing than trying to remember complex medical functions.
In truth, Sasuke was just about the only person she really liked talking to at all these days.
"So did I," he replied, and they took their usual post together in the corner.
"How'd that test go?" Sasuke asked after a few minutes.
"I won't know till Tsunade posts the grades. It could've been worse, I guess, but…"
"You know you got an A," he said abruptly. "Don't do that fake modesty thing where you want me to disagree with you and assure you you did great."
"You just did," she pointed out with a teasing smirk, nudging him with her shoulder. "How about you? Last week you told me you had a tough assignment."
"Tch. I had traffic duty on Maple Street after that transformer went down."
Sakura laughed. "You made it sound like some complex assignment…a murder investigation, maybe…"
"It might turn into that if I find the dumbass who drove into that pole, knocked out the transformer and then drove off again. I didn't graduate at the top of my class at the police academy to be directing traffic."
Their hour at the dog park flew by, and it was only when Sakura realized how very tired Zeus was that she knew she had to force herself away from Sasuke.
"So we'll see you next week?" she asked with a smile, already looking forward to it and a little sad to be leaving him so soon.
"Yeah," he replied, as Cat nuzzled against his legs, ready for her leash and a quick walk home.
But neither human moved right away. Sakura realized how silly she must look, ignoring her puppy's insistent whine to stare up at Sasuke, who was holding Cat's leash in his hands without having yet secured it to her collar.
A minute passed before Sasuke said, "Go out with me."
And not two seconds passed before Sakura said, "Yes."
Sunday, February 12, was a typical morning.
Sasuke woke up to Cat sitting on his chest, staring at him with her creepy blue eyes; when she registered his alertness, she meowed, loudly, and jumped off of him, her claws raking his bare skin, which he knew she did out of spite. Irritated, he kicked off his blanket, got out of bed, and opened a can of Cat's favorite wet food – it smelled godawful, and she was already screaming for it – and tipped it into her bowl. While she ate, he dressed quickly and brushed his teeth, slid into his jacket and clapped a hat on top of his messy hair; he was running late. Cat took her time with her tuna, and it was only when he snapped, "Do you NOT want to go to the dog park?" that she raced to his side, ready to leave.
She sure was a pretty thing, he reflected irritably, as they set off down W. High Street towards Elm. And smart, and funny, and she never let him get away with anything. How he could even tolerate having a cat like that…
"You're late!" called a pretty, smart, funny girl, with her dog at the corner.
"Barely," Sasuke returned flatly, as Cat and Zeus greeted one another jubilantly, and Sakura stood on tiptoe to press a kiss to his mouth. He scooped the obscene amount of dog toys and treats she was carrying under his free arm, and she immediately fell into step beside him as they headed towards the dog park together.
note.. hey everybody, just kind of had this on my mind. hope you enjoyed, thanks for reading. :)