Little Piece of Heaven
Sakura winced as she managed to push one last pin through the bun in her hair. Her mother had been ecstatic when she presented her daughter with a brand new kimono, part of her quest to get Sakura noticed and married as soon as possible. The kimono was exquisite; red with glittery pink flowers embroidered throughout. Being one to please, Sakura bit her tongue and decided to humor her mother for the day.
Satisfied with her messy coil of pink hair, she pulled at several strands to dangle strategically at the sides of her face. Today she had no missions or training scheduled, so it was probably her only chance to dress up for fun and prove she was capable of being lady-like.
Lady-like? Well, she hadn't been too sure if that was what caused the questionable amount of whistles and gawked-expressions as she made her way through the marketplace, but it was nice to know she was capable of getting attention. Hopefully the 'good' kind... For all she knew, a whimsical train of toilet paper could've been following her for the last half hour.
She had no agenda for the day, perhaps she would just get some lunch and shop around. Further contemplation of this continued until she soon found herself on a small wooden bridge: the meeting place for Team 7.
Since Sasuke's return, it had yet to be finalized whether or not Team 7 could become an actual team again. Sasuke was on probation for several months; banned from participating in missions and checked on constantly by ANBU officers. Naruto usually went on missions with other teams, as did Sakura… but it was still their hope that the Hokage would someday allow the reformation of Team 7.
Clasping her hands thoughtfully infront of her, she walked slowly across the wooden bridge that held so many memories.
Naruto's voice. Sakura wondered if she had somehow gone back in time.
"Naruto?" she asked, turning in his direction. He was running at her full speed. Surprised, she noticed Sasuke was bitterly trailing after the loud blonde with his hands jammed in his pockets. That last time she saw Sasuke was her one visit to the hospital, which had been a month ago. She was amazed at how quickly he had recovered.
"Hey-hey, Sakura-chan!" exclaimed Naruto as he skidded to a stop. "You look awesome! What's the occasion?"
"No occasion, baka!" she joked, pretending to sound offended. "I always look awesome."
"Yeah, well, you missed a spot!" Naruto teased, tugging loose a rebellious strand of hair from her bun. Sakura swatted his hand away playfully, lowering her head so her hands could fix her hair at a better angle.
"Hey Sasuke," she greeted offhandedly, distracted by the deed of smoothing her hair.
She heard Naruto give Sasuke a sharp elbow to the side, either to punish his trademark exhale or complete lack of acknowledge, she wasn't sure. Oh well. Once Sakura's pink locks were secure she further greeted her other teammate with a wink. "Already out of bed?"
The stoic boy gave her a quick glance before turning away to lean against the railing. "Got released a couple days ago."
"Yeah, yeah… went from being a mangled pain-in-the-ass to just a regular pain-in-the-ass," Naruto grumbled in a low voice "but listen, we were just going to get some ramen. Wanna come, Sakura-chan?"
Although unmoving from his position, Sasuke's gaze drifted to Sakura while waiting for the answer.
"Eh? Really? I'd love to!" she paused. "I mean if that's okay with you too, Sasuke?"
But the dark-haired boy had already begun walking in the direction of the market.
"Don't care," came the nonchalant reply. "Let's go already."
She furrowed her eyebrows oddly at him, but shrugged it off. Sasuke was Sasuke after all.
"Ignore him, Sakura-chan…" Naruto whispered. "He's been more difficult than usual lately. There's probably a bedpan jammed up his behind."
At the tiny ramen stand, Sakura couldn't help but feel light-hearted and giddy as she sat wedged between her two teammates. It was just like old times, indeed… with Naruto slurping down as much as he could and Sasuke in deep contemplation as to how his best friend had yet to explode.
"Good afternoon!" called a cheerful voice behind them.
The three friends turned around to see Rock Lee and Hyuuga Neji behind them. The voicetrous, thick-eyebrowed shinobi in green waved an arm.
"Oi!" Naruto greeted. "Neji! Fuzzy-brows!"
"Naruto-kun, Sasuke-kun…Sa—" Lee blinked, inhaling deeply at the sight of her. "SAKURA-SAN!"
A barrage of pink hearts exploded from him as he quickly dropped to his knees.
"L-Lee-san…!" Sakura begged nervously.
"You truly are the most beautiful flower in Konoha! Please, I must buy you lunch!"
Her cheeks immediately flushed as she cringed from embarrassment. "I, uhh…"
"She's already eating, fuzzy-brows..." Naruto managed to utter, appalled by his friend's shameless display, yet somehow able to fit another noodle in his mouth.
"Then, as a gentlemen after Sakura-san's heart, I must pay for her!" Sakura quickly raised her hands. "Noo, no Lee-san! That's not necessary! I'd rather pay for myself."
"But such a beautiful women, in such a lovely kimono—" he was given a quick smack to the head from Neji and keeled over.
"Finally..." Sasuke muttered, glaring at the mess of shattered Valentine hearts on the floor.
"Simply put," Neji said coolly "you look lovely today, Sakura."
She gave Neji a rather dumbfounded smile. He barely talked to her, let alone complimented her. "Thank you, Neji." she answered with a slight bow of her head.
He returned the gesture. "Perhaps in the future, I'll be fortunate enough to be the one buying you lunch."
Naruto's jaw dropped.
"What?!" Lee exclaimed coming back to his senses.
A loud thump was heard and all eyes turned to Sasuke who had abruptly slammed his drinking glass down on the table. "I'm heading off," he announced. He pushed his chair back as he got up, forcing Neji to step back as it rudely wedged itself between Sakura and himself. The Hyuuga frowned openly at the Uchiha for his thoughtless maneuver. Sakura blinked rapidly trying to tare herself from the previous situation with Neji. "Y-you're leaving already?"
"Ah," Sasuke answered curtly, not bothering with an explanation. Nodding at the storeowner, he reached for his wallet and threw down much more than what was needed. "Them too," he instructed, glancing in the direction of his teammates. And with that, he shoved his wallet back in his pants and walked off.
Naruto jumped up from his stool and hollered after his best friend. "Haha! Thanks Sasuke!"
"Nuts…" Lee muttered under his breath. "He took my chance."
Sakura remained silent as she watched Sasuke's figure disappear. Bedpan up the ass or not, it was an unusually nice gesture of him.
"Sakura," Neji began, breaking her from her thoughts. "I was told to relay a message if I saw you today."
"Huh? Oh! What is it?"
"Tsunade wants you to stop by her office."
She rolled her eyes playfully. "Ah yes, she usually does."
"May I escort you?" Neji asked, inciting another flushed look of surprise across Sakura's face. Naruto in turn released a noise of exasperation. "What's with you guys? She's got her own money and she's got her own legs!"
She laughed nervously. "Yeah, don't worry about me. It's not necessary, Neji."
Jeez, the guys are really getting weird this time around… she thought as she made her way to her teacher's office. Perhaps the brightness of her kimono screwed with their retinas and incited the erratic behavior.
"Tsunade-sama?" she called as she opened the large wooden door. "You wanted to see me?"
"Sakura," the Hokage said not looking up from her desk. "I have an assignment for you—" she paused after glancing up. "Well! Don't we look sassy today?"
"I learn from the best," Sakura said with a wink.
"Naturally," Tsunade sighed smugly. "Any student of mine also learns the art of beauty and brains."
"Naturally," Sakura repeated with a slight roll of her eyes. "So what's this assignment? I got your message from Neji."
"I need you to be an in-house nurse for a couple weeks. Hatsumi seems to be having trouble with one of her patients and refuses to go back."
Sakura laughed shortly. Hatsumi was a rather large, elderly nurse that needed her patients to cooperate or she'd take matters into her own hands. She usually took care of recovering patients after they had been released, a sort of temporary caretaker. Yes, she was quite the lady: a scary, stern-faced woman with plenty of upper-body muscle. She was the one who scared male patients into recovering faster.
Well, Sakura wasn't complaining. She needed all the experience she could get in the medical field.
"No problem! So who's the patient?"
Tsunade bit her lip before answering.
Author's Note: Yes, I like to draw out Sasuke's feelings of affection. This is just me, but when I read a fanfic where Sasuke just wakes up one day and realizes, 'Yep, she's the one for me!' I tend to roll my eyes and close the browser. Hints and subtleties to any cranky hot boy are the funnest to write for me. Jealousy, over-protection, DENIAL… fun fun elements! And Sakura's character… oh man, I couldn't stand her at the start of the Naruto series. But ever since Sasuke left, I've really warmed up to how her character is portrayed; she's not bitchy, whiny, or constantly gushing… that's the Sakura I'm using in this story. Oh yeah! Neji (and possibly Gaara?) will be adding conflict to the story, and the name "Hatsumi" was pulled out of my butt.