I wanted to do an AU SasuSaku. I was talking to Cheryl and she put the seeds of this little demon in my mind. That naughty girl. . . I was trying to go to oneshots entirely. But there was no way this couldn't be a chapter thing, so there you go. Hope you all like it and think I kept everyone IC enough. Things always get tweaked when they modernize in my brain.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or the characters in it. This is but humble fanfiction and I am borrowing their likenesses and personalities for a jaunt into the ether of my brain meats.
"Welcome to the Konoha family!" The pleasant voice of her boss did nothing but set the young woman ill at ease. She grasped a pen in her hand, tensing and releasing the muscles as she tried to determine what she needed to write down to remember later.
"Thank you Mr. Hatake. I can't tell you how grateful I am to get this job."
"We'll see if you still say that by tax season. . . if you make it that long. And call me Kakashi, we really don't stand on formality here." The way he smiled when he said things took all the bite out of his ominous words. Really, he had been nothing but kind to her during this entire tour of the building. He didn't need to do something so nice on her first day, and she keenly felt how she must be encroaching on his valuable time.
Sakura saw her desk again, all set up except for the metal name plate that would soon reside there, and she smiled tentatively at her boss. He seemed like he was in his mid to late thirties, and the lazy way he was looking at her made her feel as he were seeing something she wasn't. Once more, she looked down at herself nervously, checking to see if she had a run in her stockings or if the slip under her skirt was peeking out. Today was an important day for her and she wanted to make a good first impression. When nothing seemed to be obviously wrong, she looked up with another bright smile and opened her mouth to ask a question.
"Kakashi! Where have you been? I need these forms signed before I can send them off." A deep voice behind Sakura made her start in surprise.
"I was going to get to those soon Shino. You don't need to worry. Everything has its time." Kakashi's eyes glinted. "I felt it would be more expedient to acquaint my new department assistant with her surroundings. Ms. Sakura Haruno, this is one of the two stars of the accounting world for our company, Mr. Shino Aburame."
When she turned around she got a shock. The voice had been so deep, she had expected a much older man, but this Shino didn't look to be any older than she was albeit much taller. The sunglasses indoors were also a bit unnerving. It was winter after all. She wondered if it would be polite to ask why he wore them, but then again she could probably get the answer from Ino if she was patient.
"It's good to meet you, I hope I can do my job well enough to make everyone feel like I'm a valuable assistant." Her humble words belied her absolute confidence in doing this job. After the last one she had had, office monkey work was a cinch. Kakashi seemed almost too easygoing to be real.
The glasses focused on her for a disturbing moment, and then they were back on Kakashi. "I'm serious. This is important."
"Yes yes. Look at the time! I think I'm late for a lunch appointment, you know how these things go. I'll see you two around." Kakashi patted them both on the back at the same time and sauntered down the hallway. If he was late, he certainly didn't look it.
They watched their boss make his way around a corner, and then Sakura gave her second most winning smile to the obviously irritated young man still holding a pile of forms in his hands. Shino handed them to her as soon as he was certain Kakashi was not going to miraculously return and become responsible.
"Give these to him when he gets back. I'll be in my office until noon when everyone else in this building actually does have their lunch break." Shino wandered into one of the three closed offices on the floor, rather than one of the many cubicles in which men and women were pushing numbers. The door didn't slam, but the way it shut firmly didn't invite her back in for any questions or conversation. Shino was as businesslike as Kakashi was casual.
No one had actually told her what she was supposed to do, so Sakura wandered around and took a longer look at her new surroundings. She was grateful to be in a new job so soon. Not a lot of places were looking to hire, particularly during the holidays when everyone was rushing around and thinking of other things. Sakura figured this was an early Christmas present from the cosmos. She felt justified in getting one when she had been so rudely ejected from her last job the day before Thanksgiving.
It was December 1st and Sakura was the proud new member of Konoha Inc., one of the largest bath and beauty companies in the country. They had branches all over, but this was their head, their corporate base, in which the President and most infamous user held court. This was not the biggest building the President owned, nor was it the best maintained, but everyone who worked here knew that if they could get the ear of the President long enough then they might be shipped off to be head of bigger and better branches. Tsunade, the President, liked being surrounded by ambitious and hardworking people. Sakura wondered how Kakashi had ended up here. Then again, he was head of accounting and looked like he was perfectly happy to stay there and go no further if his work ethic was anything to judge by.
"I knew you'd be slacking off." Sakura's reveries had been going on longer than she suspected and she was jolted back into the rapidly emptying office.
The familiar voice of her friend made Sakura smile and she looked at Ino's reflection in the window. "I thought I smelled something. Is that bacon?"
"Ha ha. I get you a new job and this is how you repay me? With insults?" Behind her, Ino bumped her friend's head into the windowpane. "Careful, with that wide forehead of yours you might overbalance at any time, crash down five floors onto the street."
Sakura rubbed her mildly smarting head and turned. "Couldn't resist could you?" She leaned back on the window, ignoring the many people vacating the building as lunch beckoned. "You were worried about me, weren't you?"
"Maybe." Ino looked sly. "Or maybe I was down here to catch a glimpse of some of those dreamy accounting men. Of course I was worried!"
"So no designs on Mr. Hatake? Or Mr. Aburame?"
Ino looked at the offices which held those names on the doors. "I see you've already met two of the power trio. Just wait until you meet the third. He's really something."
"You tried and failed already then?" Sakura was canny when it came to her friend sometimes, and when Ino winced she knew she was on target.
"Shino's a bit of a cold fish, and Kakashi's as slippery as one. They aren't the real prize in the department. Every woman on this floor knows that, not that those two don't have quite the following." Ino looked at the third office, across from Shino's. "It's Sasuke Uchiha that you need to keep your eye on. Just remember, I warned you. Look but don't try to touch. You'll get burned. Then again, when you see him you may try anyway."
Sakura laughed at her friend. They had similar taste in men most of the time, and Sakura was sure that Ino's judgment was spot on. Whatever this Sasuke Uchiha was like, she felt like she was ready. No one could be as bad as. . . well, she didn't want to think about that. Sakura wanted to keep her good mood today.
"As for me, I'd say come have lunch, but I have lunch date with this lovely man who owns a swanky and very pricey restaurant downtown. Chouji something. I'll remember his name on the way there." Ino checked her makeup and hair in the reflective surface of the window. "Wish me luck."
"You don't need it."
"I know." Ino winked and ran off as fast as her designer heels could carry her. Sakura knew this Chouji guy must be more important than Ino was letting on if Ino was actually hurrying to meet him. That was a question for another time. Right now, Sakura was perversely interested in her boss' coworker from whom she had been expressly warned away. All she had to do was wait for him to come out of his office, and then she would go grab a bite to eat at one of the many little places that littered the downtown area in which the Konoha Inc building was located.
She was lounging by a potted plant when Shino happened by her. He stopped and towered over her, pausing as if trying to find words. "Sakura, right?"
"Yes." His words were sure, but Shino didn't seem to know where to go after that.
"If you're waiting for Kakashi to come back, you shouldn't. You take your lunch and I'll tell you what you can do to start out a project later." It took Sakura a moment to realize he was trying to be helpful, possibly even nice to her, and that the deep tone and flat delivery were part of his style and not an indication of displeasure at her personally.
"Thank you. I'd hate to have my first day be unproductive." Just spout out that crap, Sakura told herself, that 'oh I'm so efficient and wonderful' stuff and then when you know what you can get away with. . .
Shino nodded. "Excellent. I shall see you at one then. Good bye."
"Bye." Sakura waved him off to the elevator and continued her vigil. She was going to have to hurry to get lunch if this man was going to keep her waiting. In a way, she wasn't sure why she was doing this other than that Ino had peaked her curiosity.
A hand on her shoulder nearly made her jump out of her skin.
"Pardon me," Came a soft voice. Sakura tried to place the face of the timid looking woman next to her, but other than a vague feeling of familiarity she was drawing a blank. "Are you lost?"
"No. I was. . . just thinking to myself. That's all." Sakura narrowed her eyes, as if squinting would help matters, but the fierce expression made the smaller woman back away as if Sakura had raised a hand against her. Immediately, she felt bad for it, but wasn't sure why. "Sorry if I scared you, I'm trying to remember where I saw you before."
The woman seemed to deflate. "We spoke a day ago. Ino came to me about hiring you. Hinata. . . director of human resources."
Sakura felt guilty. Hinata was strangely forgettable, but then part of that could have been the way she seemed to be trying to hide whether it was behind her desk or behind the plant they were next to like she was attempting at that moment.
"Would you like to have lunch with me, Hinata? I'm new here and I'm not sure what good places there are to eat in this part of town. I worked in private offices a ways away from here and I was never adventurous when it came to getting food so I'm at a loss." Cutting short her stakeout was not something she wanted to do, but with only fifty minutes to beat the crowds and get a bite to eat before Shino drilled her in her new duties Sakura knew she had to move.
Hinata hesitated visibly, then capitulated with a quivering smile. "That sounds nice. Ok."
As they left, Sakura and Hinata were passed by a blond haired blur that almost knocked them both over and yelled back an apology as he stormed into the nearly empty accounting department.
"Some people don't have any manners." Sakura mumbled. Hinata looked down at the ground and mumbled something under her breath.
"Tell me about your department, Hinata." While Sakura didn't fall easily into calling her superiors at the company by their first names, Hinata seemed to warrant it. The girl, for being the head of her department, seemed far too passive. How had she ended up in such an influential and people oriented job? It was unusual.
The girl looked down at her nibbled on sandwich and then at her lap. Sakura wished she would meet her eyes even once during the meal. "It's. . . ok. The people I work with are. . . ok."
"Huh. That's good. Why don't you tell me about them?" Hinata fumbled with the question in her brain. "What are their names?"
That got a faster response. "Mostly I only speak with Lee. . . and Neji. Lee is always very nice to me." The conspicuous absence of description for Neji forced Sakura to probe further.
"What's wrong with Neji?"
"Did I say something was wrong?" Hinata looked around, as if she thought they were being watched. Sakura suspected briefly that this Neji person was doing something to poor little Hinata, and her protective vibes kicked in.
"If this person is giving you trouble, you should do something about it. You're his boss right? You could threaten him a little to keep him in line. If there's anything I hate, bullies are right up there." Sakura managed to bring a smile to Hinata's face and for the first time the girl met her eyes.
"You sound like. . . like Naruto."
"Who is Naruto?" Sakura took a sip of her soda, flinching at the strange aftertaste. She was drinking diet today because the holidays were coming and she wanted to make a preemptive strike against those dreaded couple pounds she would no doubt gain. Mild depression over being fired before Thanksgiving had resulted in her scarfing down several pounds of turkey, stuffing, pie, and at least one carton of ice cream in addition to enough alcohol to kill half her brain cells. She had sworn off of all those things as a pre-New Year's resolution.
Hinata's face flushed and the girl began to fidget, turning her paper napkin in her hands. "Naruto works in the advertising department. He told Neji off once for his 'reminders'." At Sakura's look of confusion, Hinata clarified. "Neji sends people who he thinks aren't working efficiently enough 'reminders'. If you get too many, he puts a notice on your door until you improve. He says it's a good shame based motivator."
"This guy sounds like a nightmare."
"Well, Naruto found the sticker on his door and he scraped it off. Then he found everyone else who had a sticker and scraped those off and marched into Neji's office and dumped all the scrapings on his desk. Neji was. . . not happy." Hinata lit up as she told the story. This was an action in Hinata's book worthy of a demi-god it seemed. This Naruto sounded like someone she admired.
Sakura leaned in, interested. "What did Neji do?"
"He told Naruto that he should lodge a formal complaint before wasting him valuable time. And the next day all the stickers were back up, except for Naruto's. Naruto had a plaque. . . screwed into his door."
"I can see they are the best of friends." Sakura said sarcastically. "But Naruto had the right idea. I'm sure the plaque didn't bother him, did it?"
Hinata looked at Sakura as if she had revealed she was clairvoyant. "No. It didn't."
"You should take a page out of his book and stand up for yourself then." Sakura liked giving advice. Whenever she got a chance, she took it. Being a busy body was something she had always done, as a consequence of feeling wiser than most of the people around her. Having a big brain and a big ego did that sometimes.
In a voice that Sakura couldn't hear, Hinata mumbled something into her sandwich.
"I said," Hinata tried again, still blushing. "I was waiting for him to come down when I saw you standing there."
Sakura paused. "Oh. I see. I'm sorry I ruined your plans then."
"No! That's not what I meant at all!" Hinata seemed deathly afraid that she had offended her new friend. "I usually wait, but he brushes by me every day on his way to see Sasuke."
There was that name again. "Is Naruto a friend of Sasuke's?"
"Yes, sort of." Hinata screwed her face up as she tried to determine how to say what she was thinking. "Or at least, Sasuke is Naruto's friend. Sasuke doesn't seem to want to be anyone's friend."
"You don't speak to him much then."
Hinata shook her head. Sakura switched the subject to holiday plans and the two of them enjoyed a pleasant lunch for the rest of the hour.
Shino droned on in a voice that made Sakura feel oddly sleepy. It wasn't merely that what he was telling her was boring but it was the pitch of his voice that seemed to lulling. If he sang, like at karaoke, then she could see him doing Barry White or someone else with a powerful but low voice. It was a voice that would be sexy if he were talking about something else then what she should be filing where, who should get mail when, and making sure she knew how to take dictation and type. It was when she was ready to start stabbing herself in the leg with her pen to keep her eyes from drooping that Kakashi breezed in, forty minutes after the lunch hour, and whisked her away to his office.
"Copy this and this for me, give me five, duplexed, and stapled. Give one to Shino and one to Sasuke and leave the rest in my box. Are those the forms to sign? Great. I'll have filing for you tomorrow and I'm sure I'll need something typed up after you do these too, naturally. Don't bother to come get me if anyone asks, I'll be gone in another hour. Terribly important meeting. I think you're doing splendidly though, for your first day." Kakashi left her with a pile of documents, and a feeling like she had been steamrolled by a friendly but vague man in a dark grey three piece suit.
Shino looked at Sakura as she was coming out of Kakashi's office. He had been waiting, it seemed. "I'll take those." He grabbed the papers he had wanted signed. "The last assistant couldn't take the stress. Between doing nothing and doing too much they've all quit on him. Best one made it two months before she cracked." Sakura turned to face him, surprising him with the way she seemed entirely steady and prepared to face her tasks.
"Compared to my last boss, Kakashi is an angel." She meant it. "I think I'll like it here."
What he said next actually did make Sakura twitch as Shino walked back into his office. "Wait until you meet Sasuke, and then if you can still tell me that I might believe you."
That was it. Sasuke Uchiha was already bugging her and she hadn't even met him. So far as she could tell, he hadn't left his office. Maybe he was a figment of everyone's imaginations, but she couldn't see Hinata or Shino being the lying type even if Ino was a sometimes questionable source.
She spent the rest of her day, as she went about her tasks, trying to imagine what made Sasuke Uchiha so formidable. The typing was a snap and the copier was the main difficulty as she tried to figure it out. Copiers and fax machines were hated contraptions to her, being the sorts of things that broke down on her at all the wrong times. Computers fared slightly better with her, but that's because she could find ways around the problem when there was one. Either a copier worked or it didn't, and its inner workings were not something she wanted to deal with. Sakura tried to picture what Sasuke Uchiha was like as she fiddled with the copier.
Attractive, no doubt, otherwise Ino would never have given him a second glance. Dark hair and eyes were the usual attention getters for Ino's radar and Sakura was similarly guilty. He was ambitious if he was in his own office and working in the corporate office, and dedicated since he was always busy doing something inside of that office. A man like that couldn't smile much. One of the rules of business seemed to be the longer the hours worked the less you smiled or laughed. Kakashi smiled a lot. Shino had attempted one when he was explaining things to her not long ago. Maybe he had a temper, a fiery temper where he yelled at people and veins in his head throbbed.
Sakura giggled to herself and then hit the copier as it made a hiccupping noise and spat out a copy with lines down it. What else could be wrong with this Uchiha? Hm. . . he might have terrible body odor. That was a deal breaker with her, since she had met many men who seemed perfectly nice until they opened their mouths and rotting odors issued forth. There was that guy she had gone on one date with who smelled of the garlic he loved. Odors bothered her.
What had Hinata said? Oh yes, this Naruto person liked him but Uchiha didn't need a friend like that. So either Naruto was very annoying and persistent while Sasuke was solitary and cold, or some exciting other option that she wasn't aware of. She preferred to think of Sasuke as a broody loner. Wrapped in an expensive suit? Yum. Sakura was excited to meet this construction, but wary as well since reality was so much more disappointing than the beautiful image in her head.
"You'll break it if you hit it like that."
"I'm sorry, I'm new and I have bad copier karma." Sakura looked up from the lighted panel she had been punching at with some ferocity and felt her mouth go dry as she beheld the most gorgeous man that she had ever had the pleasure to be glowered at. And she had been glowered at by some devilishly handsome men in her time.
"Move. I need to copy this and I'm not walking up to advertising to do it."
Sakura was instantly moved from lust to anger at his rudeness. "If you helped me I could finish faster, and if you can't be bothered I know that there's another copier on the other side of the floor."
"This kind makes better copies, and if you're going to insist on being annoying then I suppose I'll have to do your job for you." He looked down his aristocratic nose at her, and Sakura wished he was less than perfect so that when he left she had something to pick apart about him. Why were the beautiful ones deranged?
"Don't feel like you have to do anything for me."
"I don't. You asked." He pinched the bridge of his nose like she did sometimes when she had a headache. "Are we going to argue or are you going to finish your copies?"
Sakura pulled out a piece of paper from the holder and gave the man a tight and unfriendly smile. "While you were throwing a fit about my competence I finally found the button I was looking for. Please, make these copies you need so desperately." Her sarcastic tone seemed to be lost on him.
"If you weren't new I'd report you to Hyuuga." Even his hair was perfect, Sakura noted as he bent over the panel.
"Hinata and I spoke just today and I don't think she'd have a problem with me trying to figure out a copier."
The man looked at her as if he thought she were mentally challenged. "Neji Hyuuga, not Hinata." He lazily leaned against a counter and seemed to actually look at Sakura for the first time since they had begun talking. "You'd better shape up if you're going to make it at Konoha. We don't have room for weak links."
"And Happy Holidays to you too." Sakura stormed out of the copy room, ending the conversation before she got charged with assault and battery on her first day at Konoha Inc.
There must be a water cooler or something where the office ladies gathered. There is no way this man could be as big of an ass as he was and not have some sort of gossip going around about him. She almost regretted not getting him name, but talking to him any longer would have been bad for his health when her well manicured nails cut through the skin of his neck. It was almost quitting time, she noticed when she slammed her things down on her desk. Kakashi was long gone, and she had gotten a huge chunk of work done. If anyone asked, she was taking a memo to advertising.
Ino was on the phone when Sakura got to her office. It made Sakura insanely jealous that she seemed to be so far behind Ino in a lot of ways. They had been making similar incomes, even though Sakura had merely been an assistant at a law firm and Ino was a highly regarded artistic force behind Konoha Inc.'s advertising campaigns. Her last contribution, taking a floral theme to their new product line, had made the company millions and Ino had gotten a nice raise and a new office. Tsunade was known for liking to promote women, particularly if they were capable.
"Give me five minutes." Ino mouthed and then pointed to the phone and rolled her eyes. It seemed she wanted to leave on time today too, but the person on the other end of the line had not realized it yet.
Sakura nodded and waited out in the hallway. She was staring out the window again, this time not looking at anything and internally fuming about that man she had met in the copy room when she noticed that there was someone standing next to her who was definitely not Ino. The goofy smile on the man's face lifted her spirits out of the garbage where she had let them drop, and before she knew it she was shaking his hand and telling him her name.
"Sakura Haruno. I'm new." This gregarious and likeable man, the polar opposite of the person she had been mentally cursing, was also handsome in his own way. His blue eyes were striking and his whole appearance promoted a creative sort of chaos. Even his shirt, buttoned one too high, gave him an off kilter but slightly charming sort of impression.
"I know you're new. I know I would never be able to pass by you twice and not introduce myself. I'm Naruto Uzumaki, but you can call me Naruto. Do you work in my department? If you don't, then lie to me and say you do because I'd be too heartbroken if I didn't get to see your pretty face every day."
It had been a while since someone had tried a line like that on her. It was sweet, but kind of cheesy. "I work in accounting. I'm Mr. Hatake's new assistant?"
The man's face fell and he dragged a hand through his spiky blond hair. "That's just my luck. Not only are you a floor down, but who knows how long you'll even be here!" When he saw the face she made at his explanation he tried to backtrack. "I mean, I'm sure you'll do great as Kakashi's assistant. And if you don't like it I'm sure I could convince Gai that I desperately need a personal assistant of my own. . ."
"Gai would never do that and you know it. He likes it better when we do our own work, no matter how hard it may be." Ino stood with her arms crossed and regarded Naruto who was almost pouting with no pity. "If you're going to hit on my friend, do it on your own time, or at the holiday party like every other sensible lech in this building."
"That's not fair Ino. I'm no Jiraiya."
"And thank everything for that. Now shoo shoo."
Naruto waved as he bounded down the hall. "I'll come see you some time Sakura, you can count on it!"
Sakura tried not to let the day get to her. At this point it was too much everything to take in all at once. She looked to Ino who seemed to find pleasure in her consternation.
"Congratulations Sakura. You're the proud owner of a twenty-seven year old puppy. He'll follow you home if you aren't careful. I've never seen him so smitten. How do you do it, particularly in those shoes?"
"These shoes are sensible, and my calves won't be deformed when I'm forty, unlike yours." She shook her head, pinching the bridge of her nose and then had a vivid flash back that reminded her why she was up here in the advertising department. "At least he was nice, unlike this jerk I met in the copy room. He was so nauseating I had to get off of the floor before I saw him again."
Ino hummed to herself, thinking. "Dunno who it might have been. Did you get his name?"
"No, but he was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen until he opened his mouth."
The expression that lit Ino's eyes made Sakura think that her friend knew something she didn't but instead she brought up Naruto again instead. "Seriously, jerks aside, you might have some trouble shaking Naruto. He's got energy to spare and even if he doesn't look like he has his life together he's a force to be dealt with. He and I are the only two in the running for Gai's job if he ever leaves." Ino sighed. "Which he won't."
"I'll tell you some other time."
Names clicked in place for Sakura and she groaned. "Oh no! That's Naruto! Hinata's Naruto! This is awful! One day on the job and I'm already waist deep in office drama."
"That's Konoha Inc. for you. When we say we're one big family, we mean it. What we don't tell you is that it's a dysfunctional family." Ino linked her arm into Sakura's and led her away. "Let's get you home. Or to a bar. If I had had the past few days that you did then I don't think I'd want to see anything but the bottom of a martini glass."