Author's Notes: Geez, I'm horrible, really. Making you all wait so long for an update. . I can't apologize enough and once again I want to thank all my faithful reviewers and the new ones for pushing me into finishing this fic. Once again, I'm very sorry and I really hope this chapter makes up for the excruciatingly long wait. ;;;

Oatmeal & Calamine

Chapter 7

Nearly Time


The torrential downpour seemed relentless as another flash of lightning streaked across the sky before another clap of thunder boomed and threatened to shake the heavens. Fat raindrops fell with a never-ending rhythm against the windowpanes as they doused everything outside completely. Trees swayed dangerously as the ferocious wind attacked them, howling its anger throughout the entire sky. Each clap of thunder was deafening, and for someone who was trying to fall asleep, that was a great annoyance.

Stupid rain.

Sakura turned over once more in her bed, snuggling her head deeper into the pillow, hoping to find that one sweet spot that would let her ignore her surroundings and fall asleep. Too bad her pillow wasn't cooperating. It continued to feel lumpy and uncomfortable and she groaned in irritation.

Angrily punishing the pillow by tossing it at the wall, she flopped face down on the mattress. "I should kill both of them in their sleep."

Of course, she should have been used to her two "guests'" constant arguing in the night in the adjacent room. After all, she had spent a few nights like this already, having to listen to their bickering until the wee hours of the morning before it seemed like one had killed the other or they both had finally passed out. This night had been no different. Naruto had continued his relentless pestering of Sasuke, urging the other boy to explain to him Hinata's behavior.

At one point, she had been tempted to burst into their room, and shout, "She has a huge crush on you, you idiot!"

But then again, she agreed with Sasuke that it was best that he figured it out on his own. After all, didn't that make it more special?

She must have been slipping in and out of the blissful sleep she was longing for, but at some point, she heard shouting, a door slam, and then silence. If they had managed that earlier, perhaps she could have fallen asleep before the thunderstorm had started. Sleep evaded her once more and she couldn't take it. She absolutely needed her beauty sleep.

I have to drink warm milk or something...

Getting up slowly from her bed, she grabbed her robe and her fuzzy pink slippers before quietly slipping out of her room. Seeing her way around the house was no problem as the lightning made sure to illuminate her path. Heading down the stairs, she saw her living room glow suspiciously with a gentle light. Frowning slightly, wondering who on earth would be crazy enough to be watching television at this time of night, she continued her descent down the stairs.

"Naruto?"

"Hm?…Oh hi Sakura-chan!" The blonde haired boy answered quietly a warm smile illuminating his face before quickly changing to one of worry and trepidation. "I didn't wake you, did I? I'm sorry…."

Waving a hand dismissingly at him, she shook her head. "In order to do that, I would have had to been sleeping. You guys kept me up all night."

"Oh...sorry."

"Um hm."

Taking in his appearance, his hair ruffled, even more unruly, droopy eyes, and a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, it seemed that he had been on the couch for quite a while. But why?

"What are you doing down here anyway Naruto? Aren't you sleepy? You should go upstairs and go to bed."

Blinking at the sudden barrage of questions and then a command, Naruto shrugged and settled further back into the couch. " Sasuke, the jerk, he locked me out of our room, and I am sleepy, but I can't sleep."

"Oh."

So that was what had happened when I heard the door slam.

"Do you want some warm milk? I was going to make myself some, they say that's supposed to help."

"Uh, sure. Thanks...Sakura-chan." He replied his words interrupted by a wide yawn.

Nodding in understanding, she turned and made her way into the kitchen, filling a small saucer pan with milk and waited for it to begin to boil. Yawning herself, she searched for her favorite strawberry syrup kept in the refrigerator. As she continued to busy herself in the kitchen, she could hear the muffled television more clearly now where a sales-man was talking very animatedly about some new invention or whatever.

Geez, he must be trying really hard to fall asleep. Who else stays up all night watching paid programming?

Snapping out of her thoughts in time to see the milk nearly boiling over the edge, she quickly turned it off and began pouring some into her own glass and the rest into another. "Naruto!" She whispered not wanting to shout and wake her mother or Sasuke. "It's ready!"

He didn't respond, but silently made his way over to the kitchen and watched as she added her strawberry syrup to her glass, stirring it in and smiling in satisfaction as it took the colored tint she preferred. Not a hot pink, but a rosy pink meaning that the milk had the right amount of sugary goodness added.

Noticing him staring at her , she tilted her head in confusion until she realized that he was eyeing his plain white milk longingly. "Anou…"

"Hm?"

"Do you have any chocolate syrup?"

"Er, let me check."

Reaching into the fridge once more, she saw that they indeed did have chocolate syrup as well. Smiling triumphantly, she handed it to him, allowing him to add as much of it as he wanted. That done, both headed back into the living room where the salesman was still trying to convince any poor viewer that was still watching that they really had to call and order the new product since there was no way they would ever be able to purchase it anywhere else. Funny, she could have sworn she had seen the exact same product at some shop a few days ago before the boys had gotten sick.

A thunderous boom made her jump and reminded her that the mother of all thunderstorms was still going on outside. She groaned and leaned back into the couch, it was decided. There was no way she was going to catch a wink of sleep. Looking outside, she could see the sky take on that orange hue, meaning that the sun was going to rise soon. The warm milk had done nothing more than to make her feel full and preparing it alone had left her feeling more awake than sleepy.

Watching Naruto, he had finished his milk as well and had gone back to nearly cuddling with the blanket, staring at the television blankly, his eyelids seeming heavier. Realizing that he was finally falling asleep, she decided to remain still and wait for him to drift off into dreamland before she did anything, including moving. She didn't want to risk doing anything that would startle him and wake him up once more.

"Sakura-chan, aren't you going to bed?" He suddenly asked, startling her and turning dull eyes to her as he yawned widely once more.

"Shh. Don't worry about it Naruto, just go to sleep."

"But..."

"I'm all right, but you're the one who is still sick, you need your rest."

"You're going to stay up?"

"Maybe."

"You need to rest too."

"I know, but maybe I'll be able to take a nap later or something."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

He fell silent once more and within a few minutes, his head drooped forward slightly as he began to snore softly. She smiled, glad that at least one of them had managed to fall asleep. She however, was still too wide-eyed to do the same. She continued to stare at the television almost blankly and continued to channel surf hoping to find something more interesting to watch then a bunch of salesmen. When she couldn't find anything, she turned to some old programs she had seen when she was younger, not daring to turn off the television. She knew that for people who fell asleep with the glow of the television warming their eyelids, turning it off was as effective as shouting in the sleeping person's ear to wake them up. It was just one of those uncanny things. They needed to continue to feel that glow to continue sleeping.

So she stayed where she was, watching the old program. She could have made her way back to her bedroom, but she suddenly felt unwilling to move, feeling cozy on her spot on the couch. Outside the rainstorm had tuned into a light drizzle, and the sky had started to turn more blue than orange. It had to be at least five in the morning.

Stupid storm, I really did stay up all night...

But, as she continued to watch the program, it became harder to keep her eyes open, and she began to lose the ability to move, her body felt so heavy. The last thing she remembered was watching another idiot salesmen take over the show before everything went dark and she knew no more.

Only when her body felt that she had rested enough, did her eyes begin to flutter open once more. Peering around the room groggily, she briefly wondered why she was in the living room instead of her own bedroom before remembering the previous night's events. She saw Naruto still sleeping, now lying down on the couch with a pillow, she frowned in confusion.

I didn't do that, did I?

She then noticed that she herself had a pillow beneath her head with a cozy blanket covering her. Now she knew that she hadn't gotten off the couch to get a blanket for herself. So there was only one explanation, her mother had done this. Sitting up slowly, trying to wake up her muscles, she looked out the window, trying to judge what time it was. The sun was already high in the sky, and the sounds of a busy village reached her ears through the window. It had to be at least….

"It's one o'clock." A deep smooth voice finished her thoughts making her turn quickly in surprise.

"Sasuke-kun! Good morning... afternoon?"

She could feel her cheeks grow warm at being caught in such a state. She was sure she didn't look her best at the moment. Her hair felt frizzy and she was sure it was sticking out in all directions, her only compensation being that she hadn't been drooling in her sleep.

The dark haired boy looked up from the chair he was sitting in, where he had once again been reading, and smirked slightly. "Rough night?"

She couldn't tell if he was referring to her appearance or the fact that she had slept in so late. Whatever it was he had meant, it still made her blush a deeper red. "I couldn't fall asleep."

"I see."

"How about you? Did you sleep well?"

"With this idiot out of the room, I was able to finally fall asleep." He answered nodding in the direction of the blonde boy who continued to snore softly.

"Oh. The storm didn't bother you at all?"

"Why should it have?"

"Well, it was kind of loud..."

He shrugged in response and she sighed. She should have known better than to try to keep a conversation going with him. He was obviously not a conversationalist. Somewhere in her still foggy with sleep mind, she realized something very important. Her crush was sitting across the room from her, dressed and hair neatly combed, in fact, he almost looked bored. But the thing that had caught her attention was the fact that he was no longer wearing the oven mitts and that the angry red spots that had once been covering his body, were hardly visible. Surprised, she leaned forward more, staring at him, thinking that her eyes were playing tricks on her.

"Ne, Sasuke-kun?"

He looked up from the book to show her that he was listening.

"How are you feeling?"

"I feel fine. I don't feel sick at all."

"Really?"

"Really."

"Wow, that's great Sasuke-kun! I'm glad you're feeling better!"

"Thanks."

Glancing at Naruto, the pink haired girl couldn't help but wonder if he too, was feeling better. As he mumbled in his sleep and turned over, nearly falling off the couch, she noticed that his hands were free of the oven mitts as well.

When did he take them off?

She thought she could vaguely remember him not having them on the night before either. And when she remembered how easily he had handled his glass of milk, it confirmed the fact that he had not been wearing them. How he had managed to get them off was a mystery in itself.

Naruto turned over once more, and this time before anything could stop him, he really did fall off the couch. "Itai…" He muttered as he rubbed his head looking confused. He then stretched and yawned. When he noticed that Sakura was watching him, fighting back her laughter, he grinned. "Ohayo, Sakura-chan!"

"Konnichiwa." She replied trying to indicate to him that it was indeed the afternoon and not the morning.

"Eh?"

One glance out the window gave him all the answers he needed and he laughed. "Yeah , I guess you're right. Konnichiwa."

"How are you feeling Naruto?"

"Anou... feel...good, no...great. I feel great!" He answered apparently realizing that this was indeed true. And upon inspecting his arms, he realized that the spots were faded, almost completely gone. "Oh wow, this is great! They're almost gone and they are not itchy anymore!"

"That's great."

"Ne, this means I'm all better now doesn't it?"

"Well..."

"It means you're ninety percent there Naruto-kun." Answered an all too familiar voice.

"Okaa-san, ….thank you." Sakura immediately said, pointing to the pillows and blanket.

"You're very welcome Sakura dear, but I do hope you won't make it a habit of falling asleep on the couch in front of the television."

She could feel her cheeks begin to warm once more, an obvious sign that she was blushing again. "Believe me, I won't."

"What do you mean only ninety percent?" Naruto interjected frowning slightly.

The older woman turned to him with a gentle smile and in a motherly gesture, brushed some of his unruly hair out of his face. "Just that even though you two feel better, the virus is still leaving your system. So just take it easy today don't take it for granted and by tomorrow you two should be able to return home if you want to."

"Really? That's great!"

"Yes but even then, you should still take it easy before going back to your normal routines. That means no training." She added glancing at Sasuke.

He sighed and returned to reading his book. Oh well, at least it was only a couple more days of no training. It couldn't hurt that much.

"So that means this will really be the last day they have to stay over?" Sakura heard herself asking not really understanding why she sounded so disappointed by that fact.

No, that was a lie. She knew perfectly well, why she was disappointed. Together for barely a week in the same household had been a new experience for all of them. And in her opinion, it had strengthened their bond. Well maybe she hadn't gotten to know Sasuke any better, but she certainly felt that she had more patience for Naruto now. Taking care of him had been a chore, but had ultimately made her feel closer to him.

"Well honey, I'm sure the boys are eager to get back home. "

The boys said nothing in response, nothing to the affirmative or negative.

Sasuke definitely was eager to return to his apartment, to have the freedom to train and do whatever he wanted. He had definitely felt awkward staying in another's home for so long. He had grown used to living on his own and being alone. It wasn't easy for him to be thrust back into a family type environment. However he chose not to say anything, he wasn't cruel enough to be so rude when they had taken such good care of him. He was grateful, knowing that perhaps he really wouldn't have taken care of himself as well as they had.

Naruto on the other hand, though he had remained silent as well, seemed as disappointed as Sakura. He had enjoyed having so many people in the house. Enjoyed having someone to talk to, or in Sasuke's case, argue with. Not surprisingly, he wasn't really looking forward to returning to his apartment. To that empty, lonely apartment with no one to talk to him except for the television. It had felt so good to have people caring for him, and even Sakura's mother's kindness would not be forgotten. But he knew there was no other choice, it wasn't as if he could ask to stay in Sakura's house. He supposed it would be good to get his freedom back and be able to do whatever he wanted once more, but that thought alone didn't make him look forward to returning home.

Sakura found herself blurting out, "Well I guess I'd better let Kakashi-sensei know that you two are feeling better."

"I will let him know, dear. Now you and Naruto go wash up a little, lunch is almost ready."

"Sure."

Trudging up the stairs, Sakura stopped halfway and turned to look back at the two boys. Naruto, knowing he would have to wait to use the bathroom, had encouraged Sasuke into playing a game of tic-tac-toe with him once more. She smiled, knowing that she would definitely miss having them in her house. Knowing that soon she would have to go back to her same old boring routine, made he involuntarily shiver. But it only made her angry with herself.

Oh, get over it, its not like you're never going to see them again….

Sighing, she decided that it was better to make the best of the day instead of lingering on the fact that they were leaving. Having washed her face and brushed her teeth, she set to brushing her hair so that she wouldn't look like she had been electrocuted.

Back downstairs, another familiar argument assaulted her ears.

"I win."

"It can't be, you cheated!"

"No one can cheat at tic-tac-toe without making it obvious you idiot."

"Don't give me that, it's obvious that you cheated!"

"Whatever."

"Come on, one more round. Best out of ten!"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't feel like it."

"Jerk. You just don't want to give me a chance to win."

"Maybe."

"You're such a bastard."

"Thank you."

Finding herself oddly calm about the situation, she didn't shout when she mentioned to Naruto that the bathroom was now free. He beamed at her and thanked her for letting him know, before going up the stairs. As soon as he came back down, her mother urged them all into the kitchen where lunch was served.

"Ramen!" Naruto shouted cheerfully bounding over to the table.

She watched her mother's face lit up in amusement as she nodded. "Yes, eat as much as you want Naruto-kun."

"Really?"

"Really."

"Thank you!" He called out excitedly digging into the bowl ravenously his chopsticks seeming to fly by how fast he was eating.

Even Sasuke took a moment to stare at him in complete awe before beginning to eat himself. She too dug in, for some reason taking the time to enjoy the meal even more.

The rest of the day passed by routinely. Not much was different from the previous days except that Sakura found herself spending more time with them. She stayed in the living room longer, waited on them a little better, and in general was nicer to them. Even their normal arguments didn't seem to upset her.

After dinner, things were getting boring and that was when she remembered that she had a deck of cards they could play with that they had not yet used.

"Hey you guys, do you want to play some Gin Rummy?"

"Some what?" Naruto asked, tilting his head, obliviously confused.

"It's a card game, my father taught me." She found herself explaining.

After a detailed explanation of the game, she looked up at the two boys and asked if they understood. Sasuke nodded and Naruto did as well, but the clearly confused expression on his face indicating that he didn't.

A while later into the game, it became even more obvious that he did not understand the game at all.

"Gin!"

Looking at the set of cards he laid across the coffee table, Sakura sighed deeply. "Naruto, you can't say that, you haven't won."

"What do you mean? I got a group of three and four!"

"Baka! I told you , to win the cards either has to have the same rank, or have the same suit and go in order!"

"That's what I did."

She slapped her face in frustration. Looking at his cards again, she saw that he had gotten the group of three right. At least he had an ace, a two and a three, but in his group of four, he had two kings and two queens.

"You can't have two queens and two kings!"

"Why not? They're both royalty don't they belong together?"

"You're such a moron."

"Shut up Sasuke! I don't see you winning!"

"Oh really? Gin."

"Huh?"

"I said, Gin."

Laying the cards on top of the coffee table, Sakura wasn't too surprised to see that Sasuke had truly grasped the rules of the game. His group of three consisted of three 7's and his group of four all had the same suit consisting of the numbers, 8,9,10 and jack.

"Very good, Sasuke-kun! You did win."

"Hn. Jerk. " Naruto muttered.

"Do you guys want to play again?"

"Yes! I have to win this time!"

"How about you Sasuke-kun?"

"Fine."

And so the night went, they continued to play cards and various board games. Sakura found herself surprised at how much fun she was having spending time with both of them. When she didn't have to be catering to them, it was easier to enjoy their company. Even Naruto's, who had usually, easily irritated her.

I'll miss you guys when you leave tomorrow...

She hadn't realized that she had been staring ahead blankly, until Naruto's voice caught her attention.

"Sakura-chan, are you all right? What's the matter?"

"Hm? Oh, I'm fine. It's nothing...Nothing at all."


Author's Notes: Well, just to let you guys know, there is only going to be one more chapter andthen Ishall put this story to rest. I am really very sorry for the long space between updates, but I hope this was good enough and made the waiting worth while. Especially since it basically kind of wrote itself. o0 Believe me I have no idea where this chapter came from. It was actually supposed to be the last chapter. Shrug Oh well, if you guys like it, then its done its job. Thank you so much for your kind reviews! I never expected to get so many reviews for this story and all of you have made me happy beyond belief. Thank you so much!