A/N: Well, I'm back. Okay, I know I said that I was working on a Kaka/Saku fic, but I had a little trouble working it out. Still collecting my thoughts on it. I did, however, read two great fanfics while thinking. Plan for a Seduction and Plans Change by kaotic312 are awesome fics. I definitely suggest those, and the lemons are superb. Those two fics were my inspiration for writing a Kank/Saku fic. Also, wanted to shout out to the ever wonderful earthbender068. Thanks for the props on the most recent chapter of Home Again. She is always so supportive and such a help to me when I have trouble writing. So, I dedicate this fic to kaotic312 and earthbender068.

This chapter is a bit short, but I wanted to see what the readers thought of how I've written our heroine so far. So, review and let me know what you think. I know she's a little jaded, but it'll work out in the end, I promise.

Anyways, I don't own Naruto or his friends. Still would sell Sasuke if he were mine..

Pulling Strings

Jaded Sakura

Haruno Sakura. Everyone's favorite medic-nin. Or, at least, she liked to think of herself as such. Okay, so her bedside manner was often a little wanting...well, a lot wanting. But she couldn't help it if shinobi were a bunch of whiny sissies when they got hurt.

This fact was why she more often than not made a shinobi's injuries worse than they had originally been. It really wans't her fault if she got tired of their constant belly-aching and lost her temper. Or, at least, that's what she told herself and her superiors.

Which was why she found herself being severely reprimanded in Tsunade's office several times a week. Like that woman could actually say anything. Her temper was notorious, and people had eventually learned not to mess with her. So why did they still try Sakura's patience so badly, when all they had to do was shut up and listen to her medical advice. But...noooo... they had to keep it up and get themselves hit over the head, alternately causing Sakura to have to frequent her shishou's office.

Wonder who I seriously injured this time? The pink-haired woman thought to herself.

More like who's pride did you stomp on? She inwardly snorted.

The day had started well enough. She was awake early, and moving on time...for once. It amazed even herself how much she had adopted her old sensei's lack of punctuality as she had gotten older. Of course, he really did have a valid excuse. Kakashi would spend hours speaking with his old friends at the monument to fallen shinobi. Sakura's excuses for tardiness were not so lofty...she just hated crawling out of bed in the morning.

But, on this day, she had found herself bright-eyed even before her alarm had gone off. It could have been any number of things: the fact that she was off work that day, her plans to finally go shopping for a new wardrobe, the almost sigh-worthy sex that she had had the previous evening...

A small smile formed at that thought. The guy, what was his name again?, had been more than capable, and he had gotten her off, if only once. The look on his face had been priceless when she had told him he needed to leave. He had settled in for the usual post-coital snooze, when Sakura had told him that he needed to get dressed and get out before she removed him forcefully. He had tried to argue and asked her to explain. The woman would have none of that and promptly kicked him out the door, still naked.

The smile turned into a frown as her brows furrowed. That always happened to her. She'd pick up a guy, have some sort of romp with him, then ask him to leave. And, usually the guy would act abashed at her change in demeanor. Of course, it was only an act, since most of them would have snuck out the first chance they got anyways. Most knew her reputation and temper, so they would concede defeat and leave. But, every so often, she would have to get mean.

Maybe, that's what the sudden summons to Tsunade's office was about. Nah, surely Tsunade wouldn't get involved in her student's love life.

Well, sex life, anyway. There was no love there.

Thus, Sakura found herself walking across Konoha, toward the Hokage's building. It was still fairly early, so very few people were out and about.

"Hey, Sakura-chan!" That voice was unmistakable. What the hell was he doing up so early?

"Hello, Naruto, what are..mphhh..." She was suddenly enveloped in a heavy, bone-crushing hug. "Air...air..." She tried to breath.

"Hey, Dickless, she's turning blue," came Sai's bored monotone. Sakura silently thanked the newest member of Team Kakashi as Naruto let her go and turned to unleash his fury at being called 'dickless'. Kakashi pulled the girl to the side to talk.

"How's it going, Sakura-chan?" He gave her his patented eye-crinkle. The one he gave when smiling mockingly at you. Sakura's face flushed with angry heat.

"Would you stop calling me that," she practically screamed, "it's bad enough, Naruto uses it too. But he's always called me chan because he wants me to be his girlfriend. Why the hell did you start?"

"Oh, would you rather I use Sai's nickname?" He blinked at her. Sakura's eye began to twitch. "Sakura-chan, what's wrong with your eye? You should probably get that checked."

It took everything for the young woman not to clock her ex-sensei in the head. This was his new game, he seemed to like to tease her mercilessly, now that he was no longer her teacher. She didn't know if it was that he was relieved that he was no longer responsible for her, or if he just felt awkward around her.

Oh, well, their current arrangement suited her just fine. Once they had returned from Suna a few months ago, Sakura had put in for a transfer to become a permanent member of the hospital's staff. Tsunade had lamented about losing such a valuable medical-ninja from the field, an idea at which Sakura had promptly disdainfully snorted.

Now, Kakashi had his team of talented male shinobi, and Naruto got all the attention from his mentor. Everything had worked out nicely. Though Sakura could not mete through the awkwardness that she felt around the copy-nin. It was almost as if he had something to say to her, but that he was reluctant. Of course, she knew that he just thought her useless. She would never understand how Naruto had been so forgiving at being shoved off on Jiraiya, when Kakashi had focused all of his efforts on Sasuke.

Though, the last Uchiha had been the more talented of the three, it had still hurt that neither she nor Naruto had been good enough to elicit Kakashi's little quips of wisdom. Huh, some teamwork he had taught them. He hadn't even complimented her on her fight against Sasori. All the more reason the learn from Tsunade, who although tougher by far, appreciated Sakura's talents.

The young woman was pulled out of her thoughts by his voice.

"We've been sent on another mission to try to find Sasuke..." he measured the girl's reaction.

Sakura sighed inwardly. Not this again. What was she supposed to do? Beg to join them so that she could help rescue her long, lost love. Yeah right, she had confessed to the idiot, to which he unceremoniously knocked her out so that he could leave in peace. Well, he had said 'thank you' before doing so. But, still...

"And..." She prompted him to finish.

"Just wondered if you wanted to come along," he looked at her thoughtfully, as if waiting for a certain response. He didn't get it.

"No, I have work to do here. You know that I don't do missions anymore." She tried to sound bored with the conversation. His visible eye narrowed slightly as if he didn't fully believe her, but he soon gave her another eye-crinkle.

"Well, we'll see you when we get back then." Kakashi had already turned his back and was walking toward his team. Naruto gave an enthusiastic wave and hollered his goodbye. Sai just continued to look bored.

Sakura let out a huge sigh of relief. She hated talking to that man anymore. Plus, it had taken her everything to turn down his offer. Of course, the Godaime would never allow her to leave on such a mission, but still...Sasuke. The thought of the boy who had held her heart for so long saddened the young woman.

Finally, after a few minutes of wallowing in self-pity, Sakura shook herself and turned back toward her destination.

Her previous thoughts of what Tsunade needed so early in the morning stumbled back into her mind. The girl spent the last stretch of her trip wracking her brain for anything that she had done in the two days since her last visit to the office that would have gotten her into trouble.

"You called for me, Shishou?" Sakura poked her head into the woman's office.

It was dangerous business coming into the Hokage's office at this hour. The woman's temper was nothing less than volatile, especially very early in the morning. It was better to ease in slowly to gauge Tsunade's sobriety as well as the intensity of a possible hangover. Best, would be to allow Shizune to announce your arrival, but Sakura had not been able to find the brunette assistant.

The young woman was mildly amused to see the Hokage sitting at her desk writing. Not planted face-down in a drunken stupor, but actually doing work.

"Ummm...Shishou, are you feeling well?" Sakura asked, coming close, lines of worry decorating her face. Tsunade never did work voluntarily, with a smile...What was going on here?

"Ah, Sakura, I was hoping you'd get here soon." The woman motioned for Sakura to sit while standing from her own chair. The voluptuous kunoichi yawned and pulled a full-bodied stretch before coming around to the front of the desk. She joined her student in one of the chairs that visitors to the office used. The girl's slack-jaw dropped fully open when she noticed that the much older woman had removed her low-hanging, twin pony-tails to let her honey-blond hair fall loose.

"Are you sure you're alright...Shishou?" Sakura was near frantic by now. The elder woman just ignored her questions.

"Sakura, I have something to talk to you about. You're not going to like it, but it's necessary." The girl waited with baited breath. What did the Hokage need to tell her that was so important? Surely it wasn't over something she had done at the hospital? Perhaps, she had gone too far with her attempts to cure the whininess in shinobi?

"Umm...Shishou...let me explain...You see, at the hospital I get to work with mostly shinobi who are injured, and...well..." Tsunade's hand came up to stop the girl's rambling.

"Sakura, I'm sending you back to Suna."