Standard Disclaimer applies: All said characters belong to Masashi Kishmoto
Oh, do you care,
I still feel for you
What should be lost is there
Staring at her nude reflection in the mirror she absentmindedly raked her fingers through her sopping bubblegum pink hair, she had thought about letting it grow out a couple of times.
However, it was easier to work with wounded patients with short hair, not having to bother tying it back when she was in surgery with other doctors on a difficult case. Chakra was essential to all ninja, especially a medic-nin and so the hospital's motto for chakra was- waste not, want not.
Her eyes met the eyes staring back at her in the mirror, deep green in color with elegantly arched eyebrows, high cheekbones, a gracefully curved nose and a mouth with a thin upper lip and an ample bottom lip, a paler shade of pink than her hair.
Her gaze dipped a little lower to her austere yet full breasts then to her softly scarred abdomen, taut with endless years of training and exercise, much like her strong shapely legs. She flexed her fingers, the clear white diamond winking in the golden light of the morning sun on her third finger of the left hand.
The ring was beautiful, set on a silver prong that many other kunoichi and their mothers in the village envied. They would take her hand, swoon over the jewel and ask her to repeat the story of how the prestigious Hyuuga Neji proposed, regardless of how many times they had heard it.
It was not a particularly grand gesture; she supposed one could describe it as romantic or surreal. They had been dating steadily for three years, three years in which they had grown to know a little more about the other, but there always seemed to be inaccessible, locked and forbidden door in their lives that they safeguarded unwaveringly.
Nevertheless, they had been sitting together after a hard days work. Just watching the leaves rustle in the breeze as the clouds sailed the endless blue sky. And while she was deep in her thoughts of a another distant time that always seemed one step behind her he brought the ring into her view, with wide eyes she watched him smile and shift so he was down on one knee.
He had told her that she was always with him in his thoughts and then he asked her to be his wife and to be with him in his heart as well. How could she say anything but yes? She dropped into his embrace, kissed him as he chuckled and fumbled to get the ring on her finger as she enfolded him in her arms.
A knock on the door broke her thoughts and she quickly grabbed a towel, patted down her body, and quickly changed into her ninja gear before opening the bathroom door. He looked down at her with a pensive expression. They had been living together for six months now. "Good morning." she murmured, pushing up on her toes and gave him a quick, tender kiss.
"You're up early," he noted, turning to watch her make the bed.
"Yes! Tsunade-sensei asked me to come in early today; she says I am ready to further my training. Should be good." she tucked the sheets under the mattress and fluffed the pillows. "What about you?"
"I have a mission in about an hour." She set the pillow down and walked over to him, wrapping her arms around his neck.
"How long will you be gone?" he smiled and threaded his fingers through her quickly drying hair, another advantage of having short hair. His forehead met hers and he closed his eyes as he kissed her, obviously pleased with her concern.
"I should be home tonight, no later than tomorrow morning."
"Tomorrow morning?" He clasped her wrists when she shifted to step back.
"Yes, I've been gone longer." he chuckled again at her sudden shock, his fingers creating soothing strokes over her wrist bones.
"I know… it's just… well, we're getting married in two more months." She wished he would stop smiling at her like that; she was quite aware of the scene she was making and that she was overstating about nothing but for a while now she had a strange feeling as though everything was going to change, but she did not know if that change would bring ill or good tidings.
"Sakura, listen to me carefully. I am not going to get hurt or die; I am a shinobi of Konohagakure and a member of the Hyuuga clan. Trust me; I will marry you when the day comes."
"I know… I'm just…"
She gave him a shaky smile and he bent to kiss her, sliding his hands down her arms and pressing her close to his body, stroking her spine gently. "Are you going to be all right?" he teased when he broke the kiss, thumbing her soft cheek.
"Yes. Please be careful."
"I will, I'll see you tonight." He kissed her again and then headed into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. Sakura checked a few things before she was thoroughly ready to leave the house. She would have breakfast with her teacher first before they would start training.
It was such a beautiful morning, there was a light breeze and the air was fragrant with fresh flowers after a night of light rain. Slowly the citizens of Konoha were starting to rouse, opening up shop or heading to work. She passed by the Yamanaka flower shop.
She decided she make a quick stop to see her best friend and maid-of-honor. The bell jingled and Yamanaka Ino immediately stepped out from the back room with a pot of beautiful vibrant tulips. "Forehead girl, what are you doing here so early?" she asked, setting down the pot on the counter and dusting her hands.
"I have training," she said with a small shrug, rolling back her shoulders and headed over to the counter.
"Oh, really, well I just finished the flower arrangements for the reception, but I'm busy right now and you have training right, why don't you stop by tonight and I'll show you them?"
"I can't wait, I mean I wasn't loving the idea of having such a massive wedding, I mean a nice quiet ceremony would have been just as wonderful, with Neji's mother and my parents and a few friends,"
She looked dreamy for a moment, meshing her fingers together as she watched Ino trimming a bonsai, "But Neji had to have the approval of the main branch and once Hyuuga-san heard that we wanted to get married he basically insisted we have a big wedding with the whole clan there."
"I think it's nice, I mean you're marrying Hyuuga Neji, Konoha's most promising shinobi. Money is no problem for his clan and you get a nice kimono out of it." Ino said as she walked around the counter to place the baby breaths in front of the windows.
"It is a little embarrassing to think so many eyes will watch as I get married, what if I forget a line or shake so bad I stutter?" Her fingers wound in her hair, fretting over something that had not yet happened.
"Sakura, you're worrying too much, now off you go," she grabbed Sakura by the elbow and leaded her out the door, kicking in the doorstop, "you're going to be late for your training with the Godaime." Out she shoved her. Sakura staggered to a halt and straighten up, fist clenched and shoulder lifted high, and she whirled around and glared at Ino's retreating figure.
"Ino-pig, you're so lucky you're not the one getting married, you'd have to forget the veil!" Sakura sighed when Ino only waved her hand indifferently and disappeared around the corner. Sakura felt like a sulking child who huffed her way down to see the Hokage.
She was half-way to the hospital when she spotted Naruto with his little fan club: Konohamaru, Moegi, and Udon. Children grew up so quickly. She smiled, fully prepared to bypass them and head onto the hospital, but Naruto had other plans for her, she could always count on him for saying something dumb or bringing a smile to her face, not that she was feeling down, except Neji was going on a mission that may or may not keep him all night.
"Sakura-chan," Naruto's arm shot up in a stationary wave and then he ran over to her. No matter how old Naruto got he was still able to maintain a certain childish about him and no matter how bad the hand fate dealt him he always managed to have a smile on his face, a big goofy grin.
She secretly wondered why all the men in her life were so tall, she remembered when she could just look them in the eye, she remembered when she had to look down on Naruto, but when they turned fifteen, she had to start looking up at Naruto to see him. Naruto was between five feet and eight inches and five feet and nine inches.
"Good morning, Naruto." she greeted when he skidded to a halt in front of her, he looked around as if he were expecting someone else, he squinted his spring blue eyes and then looked back down at her. "Is something wrong?" she asked a curious look on her face.
"Hey, where's Hyuuga, shouldn't he be walking you around?"
"I'm a big girl Naruto; I remember how to walk; besides Neji-san has a mission." Part of Sakura scolded herself for getting involved with a man when the first one had broken her heart so devastatingly so that she hadn't reclaimed every piece and getting involved through her a new set of fears like: what if he doesn't come back home?
She took a deep breath and Naruto exhaled a lungful. "Where are you going anyway, the hospital?" Sakura looked up at him, he gave her a distraction and she secretly thanked him for it.
"Yes, Tsunade-sensei training me further, I get to learn something new today." she could not help but smile brighter when she saw the twinge of jealously. She didn't know how many times she would have to explain to him that each Shinobi has there own set of skills that another can never learn, Naruto had a plentiful amount of Chakra supplied to him by another inhabitant, there were things he could do that she could not.
He did not have the same control as her and she did not have a vast amount of chakra. "Say, how about after your training we go out and get some ramen, I'll keep you company while Neji is away." she shook her head out of amusement, Naruto never knew when to quit, she wondered if he knew the definition of defeat?
"You know, I would love to… but I have to go back to see Ino's flower arrangement, she finished them." Naruto shrugged his shoulders and she smiled.
"I'll go with you."
"What about Hinata, why don't you hang out with her?" Naruto sighed and stepped back, hands going into his pocket of his jacket. Sakura looked at him as he pressed his lips together.
"I'm in the same boat as you, she went on a mission, but she'll be back in three days. That's fine, I'll just hang out with the gang." He said, jerking his thumb behind him to the three sixteen year olds.
"Maybe tomorrow okay?" Naruto nodded, liking that, he bid her a good afternoon and then headed back to his devoted followers. Sakura turned and continued down the path with no further interruptions, she headed towards the doors and stepped inside.
As soon as she was through the door she got several greetings, she only stopped by to ask if Tsunade was in. Ever since Sakura had told Tsunade that she was getting married, she had been late on more than one occasion. Relieved to hear that she was in she headed down for Tsunade's office.
Pushing the doors opened she found Tsunade sitting at her desk with five separate piles of papers on her desk. She looked exasperated. Shizune, Tsunade's apprentice and something of a personal assistant looked over at Sakura with an apologetic smile. "Fucking hell," Tsunade cursed dropping to her knees and pulling open drawers and looking through them.
Shizune was flicking through the cabinet. "Oh! I think-!" she hit her head on the desk and let loose a handful of swears that made Sakura jaw drop. "Oh, that hurt!" Tsunade whined as she rubbed her head. Shizune turned from the cabinet and both Sakura and she looked over at their teacher. "No, this isn't it either. Where did I put that paper?
"Did you check the sixth pile of paper there on your chair near the liquor cabinet?" Shizune suggested as she began rummaging through the cabinet she was near again. Tsunade rubbed her head and set the paper down, looking at the mysterious pile.
"How long has that been there?"
"Tsunade-sensei…?" Sakura's voice sounded strangely different when she said her teacher's name. Tsunade looked over at her with honey-brown eyes.
"Oh, Sakura, come in." She invited as she headed over to the pile she had not known was there. "I'm never going to find this contract." she started from the top, glancing over the sheets one by one.
"What's going on?" Sakura asked, picking up one of the papers and glancing it over. She set the paper back down exactly the way she had found it and clamped her gloved hands behind her back. Tsunade looked like she was about to have a meltdown. "I thought we were going to do some new training."
"Training, Training? Yes, we will do a new training. Get over here and help, we're looking for a paper, it looks like this one, only… not." she lifted a paper with some characters on it and Sakura sighed and walked over and Tsunade separated the pile and handed Sakura the bottom stack.
"I should have stayed in bed."
"Yes." Shizune said with a small laugh.
"Stop that, you want to train…" A quick rap on the door cut into Tsunade's speech and she barked a quick order to enter. The door opened and Sakura and Tsunade stood, the papers forgotten when an Anbu member stepped inside and bent a little to whisper in Tsunade's ear. Sakura watched sundae's eyes widen and then shift over to Sakura for a second.
"Sakura, go home. Shizune, come with me." All three left Sakura standing alone in Tsuande's office. Sakura looked down at the papers and closed her eyes. What a waste of a perfectly good day. Instead of training, she was going home.
Maybe Sakura could find Naruto and get that ramen with him after all. She walked out of the office making sure she closed the door behind her; Tsunade was a stickler for things like. Sakura was almost down the hall and out the front doors of the hospital when she heard to young medic-nin whispering to one another.
"I swear! You can't make these things up."
"Well how do you know it's him?" the girl with long black hair pulled into a messy bun asked. Sakura shrugged her shoulders, what did she care about other girl's crushes, she had a fiancé, a rather handsome one at that.
"Because he had the Uchiha insignia on the haori he was wearing." Sakura froze, her hand sliding down and away from the handles. She lowered her head and strained her ears to hear the gossiping girls a little better. "He was surrounded by a group of Anbu, he was covered in blood. I was making the bed when the Godaime ordered me out of the room. They were carrying him inside. He looked like he was in a life and death battle."
Sakura lowered her head, pressing her lips together. That was why the Anbu had come to the office, why Tsunade had ordered her to go home?
"Isn't he an S-rank missing-nin?" the other girl asked.
"Yes. I wonder if they will interrogate him and then kill him. He was a student here under… who was it Hatake Kakashi."
"He trained team seven, right?"
"Poor bastards, I wonder how they'll take it to find the man that betrayed them and all of Konoha is back." Sakura took a deep breath and then left the hospital, she did not want to know if it were true, she did not want to find out if Uchiha Sasuke really was back in Konoha like that girl was saying.
No one was going to make her see him, if it was Sasuke then she hoped that he got what was coming to him, karma was a beautiful thing. She decided that she would go back to Ino and see those flower arrangements. Her love for Sasuke was long gone; he obliterated any feeling she had for him the moment he… left her on that cold bench… when he tried to kill not only Naruto, but also her and her new teammates.
She furrowed her brows and her eyes filled with tears, she stopped in the middle of the street, clenching her fists tightly as tears blurred her vision. She knuckled her eyes and shook her head, tightening her lips. No fucking way was she going to cry over a heartless… soulless monster.
He was so fucking self-absorbed; all he cared about was his stupid, dumb self and his meager revenge and a brother who did not give a shit about him. If Tsunade would not train her then she would just train by herself, she headed down to the training grounds.
The nerve of him, coming back to Konoha, he should have just died where he was standing. He should have stayed out of Konoha territory; he should have stayed in Otogakure with that sick disgusting snake Sannin. "Sakura-chan…?" She whirled around, almost punching Rock Lee square in the jaw; she pulled her fist back to her chest and narrowed her eyes at him for interrupting her training.
"What do you want Lee-san?" she said gritting her teeth; he looked startled by her dark attitude.
"I-I," he tripped over his tongue and her harden eyes told him to spit it out. "I saw you training alone and was wondering if you wanted a sparring partner?" she lowered her fist and her eyes soften, she exhaled and smiled kindly at him.
"Sure, I could use an outlet; you don't mind if I just do taijutsu too, I'm not as good as you but…"
"Not at all, do you mind me asking what's has you in such a foul mood?" she nodded, indicating that she did mind.
"I don't want to talk about Lee-san, if I did I would be with Ino down at the flower shop looking at my arrangement, are we going to fight now?" Lee nodded and took his stance in front of her.
Hours later Sakura was laying flat on her back in the dirt, her hair fanned out around her. She had her eyes closed, taking long deep breaths; she could hear Lee panting a couple of feet away from her, kneeling on the ground, chuckling a little. She smiled when she heard his laugh. "What a power trip." she said to him, opening her eyes and looking at his weary form.
A spectacular sunset drew her gaze skyward. The sky once filled all afternoon with billowy white clouds, now had not an honest cloud in sight. A yellowish glow seeped through the trees etched black against a white-gold sky. She watched, expecting brassy brightness to intensify through orange to red.
However, the heavens surprised her. Delicate pink washed over the haze, deepening to rose and finally to vivid purple thinly veined in gold and blue, like some exotic marble ceiling. With the first star, a breeze blew up. All the misty clouds vanished and the sky was abruptly alive with stars.
The name Uchiha Sasuke ruined her day, not the sky or the weather, she smiled and propped herself up on her elbows, drawing her knees up until they were touching. "Feel better, Sakura-chan?" Lee asked, straightening and smiling at her under all that dirt and blood on his face. She looked sorry and he touched his sore cheek, coming away with blood on the pads of his finger.
"Sorry, Lee-san." He shook his head and walked over to her, offering his hand, she took it and he yanked her up onto her feet. She grabbed the fingers of her gloves, pulled off the glove one finger at a time, and waved them.
"It's doesn't even hurt Sakura-chan, besides we roughed each other up." she looked down at her scraped elbow, beads of crimson liquid clinging to the tattered skin. Dirt and grass stains were smeared all over her clothes and skin, she looked just as bad a Lee and her bottom lip tasted like blood. She touched her lip and smiled.
"Well, I do feel better. I do not even remember why I was angry. I have to go over to Ino's, I'll see you later Lee-san." She remembered exactly why she had been angry, but all of her anger had melted in her sparing match with Lee, but she would never forget the name Uchiha Sasuke, that name would haunt her until her death; she might even take it to the grave with her.
"Let me walk you there." She was about to refuse him, people always seemed to think that she needed an escort wherever she went, friends, teachers, parents… what was wrong with everyone? She was twenty years old; she could take care of herself.
"Alright." she sighed and they left the training grounds, indifferent of their dirty appearance that attracted the attention of many. Lee walked her all the way down to the shop and Sakura knocked on the door. A flurry of footsteps erupted inside and the door unlocked and opened.
"What happened to you two?" Ino asked staring at their dirty faces and Sakura's fat lip, crusted over with blood.
"Sparing match, I think it was a tie."
"Naruto came by looking for you." Ino said, stepping back and letting the two in. "He didn't stay; he said he'd be down at the bar with Choji and Shikamaru." Sakura and Lee followed Ino to the backroom; she pushed it open and let Sakura in first. There was a wide range of roses mixed with baby's breath set up on one large table.
Sakura walked over, took one of the roses by the stem stripped of thorns, and leaned down to inhale its fragrance. "These are so beautiful, Ino, thank you so much for doing the arrangement." she went over to hug, getting her arms around, Ino tensed.
"Gross… Forehead-girl you are all dirty!" Ino complained, too disgusted to even push her best friend off. Sakura rubbed her cheek against hers, making Ino cringe. "Now you're just doing it on purpose."
"Yes, I am." Sakura said, pulling away quickly and dropping her arms back to her side. "Well, I'm going to go home, get clean and wait for Neji to come home, he's suppose to come home somewhere between tonight and tomorrow morning."
Ino walked her and Lee to the door, bid them goodnight, and locked the door behind her. Lee decided that he would walk Sakura home as well, after she was married no one was ever going to walk her home again, she would make sure of it. Neji would not walk her home; he would walk with her to their home.
Neji was the only one that did not treat her as if she were still twelve, he respected her and complied with her 'no sex until marriage' rule, he did not worry and fret over her twenty seconds a day and best of all, though he was taciturn at times, he was not a complete jerk.
Better than a rumored returnee, she sighed and reached into her short pockets and pulled out her keys. "Thank you for walking me home, Lee-san. Goodnight." He bid her goodnight and she closed the door. She removed her shoes and began to strip as she made her way to the bathroom. She deserved a good long bath and a long sleep after hearing about the potential capture of Uchiha Sasuke.
And now for those of you who didn't die yawning or switch to a better or more highly reviewed story here's a preview for the next chapter:
He woke up staring at an off-white ceiling. He blinked thick lashes until he could see the little puncture holes in the plaster, a bland pattern. Warm sunlight covered him like a second blanket over the real sheets that covered him from the waist down. There were metal rails on the bed. An IV dripped into his arm.
A hospital- then he was not dead. By all rights, he should be dead. He had known plenty who had died from less, but he was not like the others of this miserable world in which he existed. He was much more. He was stronger, smarter, and faster. Better.