Begun: January 23, 2007

Ended: January 26, 2007

"I really do love my job."

You'd have to. Because when the hospital calls, you answer.

Food is dropped, fires extinguished, heads left rolling, and you're on your way.

Uchiha Sakura's role as Chief of Staff should have meant less healing and more time spent behind a desk. She was supposed to be creating schedules, and thinking of new and better ways to save her colleagues. Only, when you live in a village where more living ninjas are better than more partially healed ninjas, and much better than dead ninjas, you end up having to step in from time to time. Or shift to shift. Now she creates schedules, thinks of newer, better ways of healing, and does a share of the work herself.

When she should be resting her eyes and catching her breath, she mothers.

She knows it should be the other way around, and that mothering should come first and healing should come second, but you've read the first paragraph and you know the harsher reality of it. Besides, her four year old son is not a ninja. Not yet, anyway.

It's that thought that has her scrunching her face as she pours over a scroll of hastily written kanji, characters so looped and scrawled over one another that they would demand repeated perusal. Her son is not yet a ninja, though if his father has anything to say about it, he will be.

Right now, the boy is more worried about the cold senbe sitting out of reach than whether shuriken have four, five, or six points. Tenten argues that four are best. They are more likely to be better quality, and less likely to cut one's own hand. Sakura argues that children who have just had dinner should not be trying to talk their mother into giving them salty rice crackers.

"Mommy, I want that cracker," his words say. His tone says that he is only alerting her of this so that she may extend her hand and give it to him. That she should debate over whether or not he should eat it has never crossed his mind.

"No, Hiro," she says gently, not looking at him but once more looking over the scroll. One hand holds the unadulterated material away from the hunting point of her diving brush.

She makes it halfway through one more character before Hiroyuki has placed both hands on her bent knee and is whining, "But Mommy"

Hastily finishing the character, she tilts her face to him, locking pale green against black and says calmly and firmly, "No Hiro-chan. I want you to go pick out a book for us to read together tonight, okay?" He's distracted by this, and the would-be heartbreak turned whining is lanced before it can swell. Annoyance turns to adoration as the not-quite toddler turns from her and breaks into a waddle-run, clapping his hands as he does so.

Sakura watches him only for a moment before catching her tongue between her teeth as she continues scribbling. There are four more lines to go within this particular phase of the seal. Four lines closer to life, and four lines away from death.

She can hear Hiro only one room over from the common room. He has forgotten the order to wash his face, but Sakura lets it go. She'll remind him, but for now she'll listen to him scramble through the clutter of his room, wondering how and when the

opportunity will rise for a cleaning.

Two more lines are finished and Sakura has lowered the brush, but not abandoned it. Notes are sprawled over the table in her illegible hand, demanding attention before more characters can be created on the open scroll. Two lines closer to life, and two lines further from death, but damn if those lines weren't so, so far away.

She blows a breath over the quickly drying ink. Once, and then twice. Then with practiced motions the scroll is once more a neatly bundled wrap, tied with a deceptively innocent knot. High-level techniques are kept from prying eyes with a myriad of defenses. This is only one.

She slides out of the chair, stacking the notes as she does so. Her feet, purpose, and attention turn toward her son's room and with a few strides she is standing before his door, watching as he flips through a thick-paged book, scanning pictures while his toe scuffs the ground unconsciously.

"Is that the one you want?" she asks without pausing to admire him. It's been a long day, with tomorrow promising to be another. Before Hiroyuki can explain why he has been standing silently, staring at a book he cannot entirely comprehend, there is a loud tinny wail from the kitchen that grabs Sakura's attention faster than it should. Faster than her son has today.

Urgency sometimes rules importance, and Sakura makes a physically harmless finger motion to her son before backtracking. Wait for me, it says silently and Hiro watches her until she turns the corner, then his eyes are back on his book. He is quiet and absent-minded. He's also four years old and constantly absorbing the stimuli around him.

In the kitchen, Sakura's easy, family tone has disappeared as she grabs the long-range radio from next to the sink. "Go ahead," are the clipped words that fall from her mouth, reading glasses being discarded with her free hand. The black block in her hand crackles before she hears the words she dreads.

Only two ninjas tonight. Right now, rather. Both hurt badly enough that she's being called in to clean up. Her affirmation is shorter than her greeting and she sets the radio on the counter even as she moves toward Hiroyuki's room. Sasuke is gone, and has had back-to-back missions lately. It's actually not his fault, and Sakura knows it, but there are no emergency babysitter services in Hidden Leaf, and as Ino and Naruto are both beyond the reach of her current time limit, her list of options is woefully short.

Hiroyuki is still regarding little golden book as she approaches and it is without ceremony that she grabs a small green and yellow duffel from the corner of his room before she grabs the boy himself.

"Want to go flying, Hiro-chan?" she asks as she dances him toward the doorway. Are these the only battles she can fight now? The ones where she convinces herself that she's a good mother and the family she always wanted is as perfect as she always imagined? That it's okay to be whisking her son with her to the hospital when he instead needs to be sleeping like a normal four year old?

Such battles are won when she reminds herself that, even within the ninja ranks, her family is hardly normal.

Hiroyuki laughs and nearly dances with her, his torso gyrating within her arms. She cannot help but laugh with his near hysteric giggles as they exit the compound. He's laughing so much that he's shaking, but she'd kill herself before she'd drop him. He does not find it strange so much as wonderful when she leaps to the rooftop of the house soundlessly.

They lift and descend, and it feels like they are floating. Like the are flying. Sakura knows all of the right places to land on each different building because there are traps installed even here for the unwary. Six years of marriage and over a decade of life as a ninja has convinced her of their merit.

The municipal hospital is before her to her fear and delight. She presses a kiss to her son's lips before they are separated and a familiar aid takes the boy to make him more comfortable. They could be out of here shortly, but more than likely they will be a few hours.

Adrenaline set in before she entered the kitchen, at the first crying of the radio. It has yet to give her reprieve, and her lungs are filling and relaxing almost as if she has been running. She's calm, though, and as she enters, and the other medics who aren't feeding chakra into a dying woman step away. Those working are too immersed in their positions to look at her. They also know that a break in their precarious positions could be as harmful to them as the woman lying on the table.

"Sensei!" one medic cries as Sakura steps up to the younger man with green chakra covering his fingers. Sakura does not take her eyes off of the woman before her. The ninja seems unharmed accept for the pained expression on her face. She's conscious, if only to a small degree, and knows that there is something wrong with her body. "Sensei it's the chakra flow. Somehow it's been- been- reversed!"

Sakura does not allow her own curiosity to show because she knows that emotions bear like wildfire and are able to flare into something much greater than their original form. Instead she listens as her subordinate informs her as to necessary details of the mission, how foreign ninja were able to overcome and incapacitate the one lying before her.

And almost immediately after is when she steps in and takes over for the man next to her. She only barely hears him slumping to the floor, and does not notice the other medics beginning to carry him out of the room. Another colleague across from her is maintaining the body's functions as the ninja's own chakra is no longer feeding necessary energy to the vital places. It is Sakura's job to restore the chakra's proper flow.

This procedure feels familiar. Well, sort of. This is a two-fold process, and she's really only done the first half before. She is not familiar enough with Rock Country techniques to effectively counter them. She is, however, familiar enough with the human body to know how to treat it, and the best way to set the course of chakra flow is to start it. From scratch.

"We'll need one other fully capable," and that means fully energized, "medic for this procedure. We're going to put her into arrest, and then we'll start her over," Sakura says, and her voice is much stronger than her conviction that she can pull this off. She's shut down the chakra flows of people before. She's also created fully working chakra flows. In fish. And people are quite different from fish. She's also been a medic for over half of her life.

No one around her hesitates at her command. Whether they have faith in her or in the chain of command she does not consider. They do not cry out that this process could kill the one on the table, and leave her for dead. By all rights this ninja should have been dead and cold hours past. One or two more won't add repercussive harm. Besides, Sakura is not going to leave her that way any longer than she can help it.

For the next three hours two medics ensure that the lungs breathe, the heart pumps blood, and that the blood circulates to the rest of the organs, all of which function at a slower rate than normal, but function nonetheless. Sakura slowly shuts down Minori's, for that's the ninja's name, natural chakra pathways, causing the unnatural flow to cease before any lasting damage can be created. She then carefully restores them and is once more amazed at the way in which one's body can heal itself with marvelous resilience.

An hour after the procedure, Minori's remains are being cremated courtesy of Anbu and the hunter-nin facilities. Sakura is amazed at the capabilities of the human body, and even more amazed at much more she still does not know. One thing she knows, which still does not quite help the guilt and disappointment, is that even if you do everything right- things can still turn out horribly wrong.

Sakura has left the second, stable ninja to the other medics, and is writing the report to be turned into the Hokage's center. It could wait because her body is exhausted and her brain is more so than her body, but she knows that the details are freshest in her mind now.

She has lost a life tonight and that makes her hurt, because she has not yet become cynical to her job nor does she take for granted the effects that she has on other people's lives. Sakura does not delude herself about the nature of her job. It's demanding. In every possible way, but its demand is reciprocal. She needs the job. Without it she is only a great ninja, surrounded by greater ninja, making her average at best. As the medic who can save lives, and nearly bring people back from the dead there is a reassurance for- for many things she doesn't want to name. Some touch on her relationships with her friends, and some with her husband, and with the respect she has for herself.

Sakura holds onto that need until she reaches the lounge, where Hiroyuki has reclined in a horizontal, S-shaped chair. It looks horribly uncomfortable, but Sakura knows that children are even more adaptable and resilient than the most honed ninjas' bodies. The special feeling of being a doctor and amazingly competent ninja fades away. Fast on its heels is the even more special feeling of knowing how much faith that little one has vested in her.

It's lovely.

It's terrifying.

Though most of the fear was born the night he was born. It left her after she realized that Hiroyuki could be fed and clothed easily enough. Though it stills nips at her heart every now and then. Nights like tonight when Sakura knows that her son deserves better than he's received.

She scoops him up into arms where he stirs minimally before conforming to her bosom and resting there. His duffel is with him, the clothes he was wearing back at the compound are tucked neatly within it while his pajamas keep him warm and comfortable. Sakura is ready to drop into the nearest bed, but Hiroyuki prefers his own- deserves his own, so they- she is going to walk the journey back to the Uchiha compound where her son will have sweet dreams and where she will collapse into her empty bed- if she does not collapse on the way instead.

They leave the lobby, and then the surgery ward, flanked by gentle smiles and the silence that should be filled with congratulations. What do you say to reassure the doctor who has taught you everything you know? She hugs her son a bit tighter as they reach the main entrance, only to feel her dampened spirits renew at the sight of a beautiful head of coal hair.

Matching eyes are watching her solemnly as she approaches. As she draws closer, arms are lifted to her and she gratefully deposits their son into her husband's arms, only briefly wondering if he meant to hug her instead. He does not correct her motions and they walk side by side through the village in silence.

When they return home, Sakura drops the duffel just in the door while Sasuke returns their boy to his bed. The pink-haired woman takes a moment to clear off her notes from the kitchen table before making to prepare cold tea, something to refresh her husband. It is clear he has not yet had time to wash.

"Leave it," Sasuke commands and guides her to their room. They lie down, once free of their clothing, and he tucks her back to his chest, one hand resting on her thigh because he knows that she likes this position. He's been gone for thirteen days, but Sakura feels that she could cry with relief when his gestures go no further. She enjoys intimacy almost as much at the next person- but tonight- not tonight.

"We completed the mission successfully," Sasuke mumbles against the back of her head, and she can sense that he is near to sleep.

"Was there any doubt?" Sakura asks, her voice is low, but clear, and though she is tired, her mind is now alert with failure. Those four words, their tone, is enough to betray her fatigue and worry to her husband. Though her words are for him, her mind is elsewhere. The fingers splayed and relaxed over her leg suddenly dip into her skin. They are gentle, but firm.

"You did all you could. You couldn't do anymore."

"Minori's comrades won't want to hear that," she retorts and Sasuke is silent. The arm on her leg is withdrawn and she widens her eyes, hoping that the cool air will dry a sudden onset of tears. She has learned over the years many techniques for maintaining her composure.

When she feels his other arm wrapping beneath her waist and her body rolling involuntarily to face him, she is grateful for the arm at her back that keeps her from becoming entirely boneless. It does not seem to matter when Sasuke pulls her against his chest and allows her bury her face against his shoulder.

Her four year old son has not seen his father in two weeks. His mother has been pulled in two different directions by forces which command both her love and loyalty, and Minori-who-was-a-ninja is now nothing but ash and a name carved into a far-off rock. More scroll work waits for her tomorrow, more dying and ailing ninja, and more attention which her son needs and deserves which she can't quite seem to effectively fulfill. And the weariness returns full force so that when she sags into the bed Sasuke's arm silently tightens around her. He has gotten much better at expressing his feelings over the years, even if his verbal communication still is not on par with hers- or anyone's for that matter.

"I'm taking Hiroyuki to the old wing tomorrow for target practice. We're going to make a day of it," Sasuke mumbles, though there is something about his tone which is more awake than Sakura would have guessed.

Her breathing is able to deepen at those words, though no amount of dry air could now stop her tears from falling. She does not say thank you, though she feels gratitude in her heart. She and her husband have both realized that its best not to give thanks for what they know they should do anyway.

"That sounds good," she says, instead, and pays a chaste kiss to his clavicle. His hold relaxes slightly and she pulls away, giving him room to breathe and relax into the bed. She maintains a hold on the front of his nightshirt, though, yawning as some of the tension seeps out of her shoulders. The scrolls and schedules and sick patients don't seem as harrowing as they did moments ago.

She really does love her job.

wowie wowie woo.