Author's Note: Life's been crazy. It's been almost four years, guys. I would be kindly surprised if you still read me after all this time. If you're wondering what happened to me, here's a summary: Finished school, got myself a boyfriend, moved with him to Peru… Trying to get to college and get a job at the same time. But life's good overall.
I found myself some time to start writing again, so I re-read this story like seven times, in order to get a grasp of what was going on, and found myself planning what would happen in the following chapters. I really hope I can finish this, it's been my best story so far, I would never forgive myself if I didn't.
Anyways. I'm very sorry I left you abandoned like this. I hope I can make up for it.
He widened his eyes when he saw her.
A smile. "So, how you've been?"
"Okay, Sakura, take a look. This is the kidney. According to the radiography, this poor man has a calculus in its upper part." Takashi explained, pointing at said area with his tool.
The rest of the people inside the surgery room were dead silent. Not only because the chief doctor was speaking, but because Sakura was in there. No one had ever let her inside a surgery room. In the last few months, she had become friends with Takashi, and when she told him she would be a doctor one day, he had insisted in doing everything he could to help her. Like letting her inside the surgery room and explain a few things first hand for her.
"Right." She answered, nodding; never daring to ask questions. She was so thankful she was in there, that she feared asking something too dumb and getting thrown out.
Of course, Takashi imagined this, and he was providing short explanations for everything they were doing. "We're performing surgery on him because the ultrasound equipment we have here didn't work," he said patiently, "Better equipment would have done perfectly, but what we have wasn't enough. We could have also taken him to Iwa or Konoha, but he's in extreme pain. These little things are evil," he smiled.
"I see," she nodded once more. She bit her lip.
"Do you have a question?" He eyed her, not smiling but still gentle.
Sakura just stared for a few seconds, feeling insecure. She thought it over twice, making sure she wasn't going to say anything stupid, and then opened her mouth, "Aren't there any medicines to dissolve them?"
"Oh yes, there are, but this ones are just being difficult."
She nodded once more. Takashi went on performing his art after their short conversation. Sakura handled him surgery tools every now and then, and that made her feel more useful than she had felt in weeks. Within the last few months, she had become, as Takashi liked to put it, his favorite nurse. She resented a little the 'nurse' title, but at least now she had someone to have lunch with.
When they were done, she watched carefully as the surgeon closed the wound. The stitches were neat, but she imagined an awful scar would be there for a long, long time. She wondered if there was a way to do it even more neatly. In this line of thought, she couldn't help but wonder how medic ninjas would do this. How could they stitch something in the middle of a battle? Doing it traditionally wouldn't be practical, most definitely. She couldn't imagine a medic ninja wasting time sterilizing stuff and so on.
Would Sasuke know anything about this? She was a little afraid to ask him. Yes, he had been training her in the basics; but in actuality, the last time they had talked about something related to medicine he had told her she was just a nurse. And that had hurt. A lot. Sakura bit her lip. Perhaps she could ask Suigetsu, but she knew a guy named Orochimaru had locked him up for most of his life… So she wasn't sure he'd know. Well, she could try. Suigetsu wouldn't say anything cruel to her, at least.
"Sakura?" Someone called for her. She blinked, startled.
"Sorry, what?" She excused herself.
"What would you like for lunch?" Takashi asked.
She blinked once more, realizing the surgery was over and that they were walking down the hallway towards the hospital cafeteria. She'd been so immersed in her thoughts, she didn't remember if Takashi had asked her to have lunch with him, or if they were just walking together and he assumed they'd be having lunch together.
They had had lunch together before, of course, but it had been a week or two since the last time. Smiling slightly, she decided it was a good idea, it felt really good to have someone to talk to while eating. "I don't know, I'll decide when we get there," She said to him, and he smiled back.
She was feeling content, finally. After a lot of pain, she felt like this was some sort of a reward. Being recognized at the hospital, not having that much of awkward stares, having someone expecting her at home, being trained as a shinobi… Things were finally looking good. She felt in a really good mood, but she couldn't help somehow feeling everything was too good to be true.
On Friday evenings, Sakura had her night shift. That meant that she arrived at about 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings. She wouldn't sleep on her bedroom those days. Right after she arrived home, she would wave hello her… inmates, asking if they wanted any breakfast. Upon seeing her wasted face, they'd always say no. Then, she'd promptly drop herself dead on the couch, sleeping comfortably until 11 a.m. Then, she would wake up, always on time, without any sort of alarm clock.
Sasuke knew all this. That morning, he had woken up right before Sakura arrived, and went off to train. Regular stuff, jogging for a while, practicing his chidori with some random trees. When he got back to her house, she was, as he'd expected, lying asleep on the couch. He smirked a little and went to his room (her parents' room) and worked on his katana. It was perfectly sharp, he knew, but a little more couldn't hurt. It was something he liked doing, as well. It helped him forget about time.
After a long, long while, he decided it was definitely later than 11 a.m., which meant Sakura would be awake by then.
He had been meaning to talk to her about his wound for a while. As far as he knew, it was perfectly healed; and he was pretty much sure that if he were in Konoha's hospital – well, any shinobi hospital for that matter, it didn't have to be Konoha's, why would he think that? – he would have been already told that he was fine, and would be allowed to walk off without any stupid bandages.
A thing that Sakura didn't want him to do. She reprimanded him every time she saw him unbandaged, even though she took a look at the wound once a week, and he had to bandage and unbandage himself every time he showered. Of course, he could just disobey, but the look in her eyes when she told him to keep it wrapped up told him it was really for his own good.
Then again, it was healed, to his eyes. So he needed her to realize that, and stop annoying him to no end with stupid bandages.
If he actually thought about it, he didn't even know why he listened to her. He could perfectly tell her to go to hell and her stupid hospital and stop bothering him. He had considered doing this previously, when he asked her to remove the bandages once and for all, but when he was about to tell her just that –to go to hell and bla bla- he would meet her eyes and he would see that she genuinely cared. And so he gave in, everytime they had that conversation.
The last time, as many others in many other different situations, she had read his mind; saying no to him before he could even ask.
"No." Sasuke blinked, and stopped dead on his tracks.
"Excuse me?" He had been walking towards her, in order to grab a glass that was in the cupboard at her left.
"I know you want to get rid of those bandages, but you can't just yet."
Sasuke blinked again, and stared hard on her. "Why-"
"You have that wet-puppy look in your eyes, and your hand is on your bandage." She smirked and walked away.
He smirked back. "Okay."
Okay, so sometimes he didn't say that because she didn't even give him any chance.
Well, at least, he now knew her mind-reading powers were because she was very observant; and not because she was some kind of mind-reader or just a freak. It had been very creepy until he discovered she was just very sharp-sighted.
He shook the thought away, smirking to himself, as he went down the stairs, looking for her. He could walk the way with his eyes closed, so almost automatically he turned around and started walking towards the kitchen door, where she'd surely be. He spotted her pink hair there, and stepped inside-
"What's wrong with you?!" She yelled.
Once again, her eyes and her demanding voice made him stop. And he stood right there, one foot inside the kitchen, one outside. He raised one brow, confused; then he realized he was angry because she had yelled at him for god's sake, and frowned and glared altogether. He realized how stupid he must have looked, standing there frozen because of the insolent complaining of this girl. He glared even harder when he spoke, "What's wrong with you?"
"I've been mopping this floor for half an hour! Step out!" Sasuke kept on staring for a few seconds, still confused. "Now!"
"Annoying woman." And he stepped out.
"Thank you, my darling," she said mockingly and quickly moved in order to mop again the area he had stepped in. Sasuke glared at her a little more, if it was even possible. Once she was finished, she stepped out herself.
And so they were standing in the hallway, Sasuke intently glaring and Sakura trying to smile a little. "Uhm, sorry about that. I really don't like it when someone messes up something I just cleaned."
"Whatever," he looked away. "You sounded like a stressed mother."
"Are you trying to say I sounded old?"
"Shut up!" She said, laughing in spite of herself. "Anyways, were you looking for me?"
He had already started walking towards the living room, so she followed him silently.
"I want you to take a look to my wound." He said, trying to be more diplomatic with her this time, so that she could give it a little thought before just saying no.
She was instantly worried. "Why? Does it hurt? Are you having a fever?" She asked, as he sat on the couch, and she approached him composedly. She undid his haori without even asking, and Sasuke felt the heat rise up the back of his neck. He didn't feel very comfortable around her anymore. How come he'd allowed someone to be at ease like this with him? Even more, she had just yelled at him. He didn't understand her. He always watched Karin coming and going with her moods, but Sakura did this in a completely different level. He was at a loss.
"The bandages are okay," she said, not looking at him. "The skin isn't any warmer than… The rest of your body." She smiled, as she touched his chest and his side repeatedly, so as to compare.
This had been a bad, bad idea. He was definitely uncomfortable now. He realized that, however, this wasn't any different than any other time in which Sakura checked him out. So, why was he feeling so awkward? He swallowed, and looked away. If something worse were to happen right then, it would be for Karin to step in and start suggesting stuff. Chaos.
"Imagine what would happen if Karin were here," Sakura laughed, and began to undo the bandage itself. There it was again. Her mind-reading crazy thing. "Hm, this is pretty good," she said glancing at the wound for the first time. Then, she kept staring and analyzing it for a few seconds. "You want the bandages out for good, don't you?"
This time, she looked up. And she smiled. Sasuke didn't know why, but felt the urge to look at her. He swallowed again, and felt his neck burning up. "Yeah,"
She nodded diligently. "That's okay, but I'll clean up this every day, yes?"
He wondered if it was a real question or if she was just informing him. He nodded, just in case.
"I'll clean this up later tonight, we'll do it at night so that you rest nice and clean." She paused, and started putting the bandages back on. "I was wondering… How would a medic ninja handle a wound like this? Have you met a medic ninja?"
Sasuke raised a brow at her question. Why was she asking this? Did she… Did she want to become a medic ninja? He was quite sure she'd never make it. Medic-nins needed special training that he was positive she'd never get. He wasn't sure if he should tell her what he knew, and give her hope, or if he should just lie.
Well, he wasn't very good at lying.
"Medic-nins heal with chakra," he said, slowly. She had patiently waited for his answer, he realized, and the bandaging was almost done. He hoped he could keep the conversation short. "It's a special kind of chakra, and it requires a lot of training."
"I see. And does it leave any scars?" She asked, interested.
"Not that I know of."
The bandaging was done, and unlike he'd predicted, instead of going on with her duties, she sat down on the couch beside him, looking at him intently.
"So they don't do any surgeries," she assumed.
"Yes, they do. I don't know the details, but I suppose chakra is involved there too."
She nodded. "Interesting," her eyes shot up and she stared at the roof for a few seconds. "Do you think I could learn to do that?"
Sasuke fought the urge to sigh. He played with the words in his tongue, wondering if he should tell her the rough truth or if he should just let her go on with her fanciful dreams. He was about to say no, when she looked at him in the eyes again, smiling. She'd probably assumed he'd say yes. Why would she think that? She should be imagining quite the opposite, but she was seeing the best side of him.
He felt troubled when he said, "Maybe."
Realizing what he'd just said, he bit his tongue. He was about to retract himself when he watched her smile. And he stopped. She was so full of hope. It almost amazed him, how even though they had a similar past, she was so bright and warm; and even more, was able to smile a wide grin like that. It was not normal. It made him curious. What made her so happy?
She had no family, no friends, she'd lived alone in this house all these years, she was in that same house against her will because of him, and she was stupid enough to smile at him and trust him.
"Why do you smile like that?" He blurted out, almost angry.
And just like that, her smile faded away and she looked at him, concerned. This upset him even more. "Because I'm happy, Sasuke!" She frowned a little and stared at his confused expression. Then the smile came back, and he was reluctant to admit he was a little relieved to see her smile again. Something inside him felt better. She laughed a little and his stomach was unsettled. "I'm going to be a medic-nin!"
He was heavily annoyed. Seeing her happy like that made him furious and at peace somehow. He felt distressed and just wanted this awkward situation to end. He snorted indignantly and said, "I don't know about that."
The day after, Sasuke was completely freaking out at his conversation with Sakura. As always, he had taken out his torment on everything near him; in this case, Sakura. It had had the effect he'd been expecting – her smile vanished and she stopped her stupid chattering of promising futures and happy endings and her being a medic-nin.
As if that would ever happen. Hah.
But anyways, that wasn't why he was freaking out at the moment.
The stupid feeling in his gut that tormented him hadn't gone away. Not even when he took it out on Sakura. Not even when he kicked Juugo and Suigetsu's asses that morning. Not even when he brusquely told Karin to shut up. It was like he had done something really terrible, like something was amiss, and the fact that he couldn't figure out exactly what - that was driving him crazy.
Sasuke was intently honing his sword, absolutely focused on the coming and going of the stone and his blade. He heard Sakura laugh in the kitchen and he raised his head. He didn't turn but he suspected she was talking to Suigetsu. He always made her laugh like that. He suddenly realized that he was putting way too much more pressure than what was considered as "healthy" for his sword, so he stopped altogether.
Outside in the garden, where he was sitting, he watched a couple of leaves from the apple tree slowly dance as they fell down. It was autumn.
Sakura laughed again, and again he was reminded of his weird stomach ache. He turned and saw her happily talking to Suigetsu, as he suspected. He sighed slowly.
Another apple tree leaf fell and landed softly on his arm. He stared at it, reassured that autumn was already there. He would have continued thinking about falling leaves, cleaning roofs and colder weather but for him, autumn just meant only one thing.
Itachi's five months were almost over.
It wasn't in Sasuke's nature to go into denial, but he realized that he'd been avoiding thinking about it. It wasn't like he wasn't ready – quite on the contrary actually, he was ready and fit and his side wound was practically healed. He remembered before, when he was at Orochimaru's stupid hole of a cave, he yearned of the day in which he could get out to kill his brother. Every day he would think about it.
Something had changed. He assessed himself now, and he saw that he was relaxed about it. Not less eager to kill him, not at all, but he wasn't so restless anymore. He still felt that weird thing in his stomach but he was pretty sure it had nothing to do with that.
So he didn't really know why, but those five months had flown by. Now, he needed to take action.
Supposedly, Itachi would be out there by now, "available" for Sasuke to go and kill him. If you had to ask him, all of this was very weird. He didn't even know why he had listened to him and stood by all this time. It seemed like he didn't know a lot of things lately.
However, one thing he did know – his time over at Sakura's was definitely over. He needed to go out and search for his brother, get his veng- justice done once and for all.
He considered how he would handle this situation. He suspected Sakura would be quite upset upon being told he was leaving – she was just a lonely girl, who finally found company – so he wondered if he should just leave and don't say anything. He wouldn't be there to watch her grieve and he wouldn't feel guilty. It wasn't like he needed more guilt already. He thought about it for a few minutes, and then, he realized that wouldn't be right. Sakura had done a lot for them, she deserved to know.
But how could he tell her? She would want to come with him, of course. She was leaving that town when they first met, and she had stayed because of him. He realized then, asking her for a place to stay had most likely been a mistake. He should have just got into the town and found a place for himself, not taken advantage of an teen orphan wandering about in the road.
He needed a way to tell her, without giving her a chance to argue or crying or being an annoyance.
Then it hit him.
"You're gonna do what?" Suigetsu shrieked.
It was only reasonable that he told Hebi his plans first. They needed to be ready to go.
Suigetsu was not reacting well. He slammed his fist on the table and glared at Sasuke. The nerve of this man, he thought, screaming like that. Luckily Sakura wasn't home. He eyed the rest of his team and saw that no one was really happy about this… issue. Karin was crossing her arms and shaking her head heavily. Juugo just stared, unable to believe it.
"I don't think that's quite right," Karin said. "I don't like her but she's been nothing but nice to us. It would be really mean-"
"Mean? He's a fucking coward! Sakura-chan has been feeding and sheltering us all this time. Have the balls to tell her to her face, without any stupid genjutsu just because you're scared of what she's gonna say."
"I'm not debating this, I'm communicating my decision." He stated. He was going to continue but Juugo interrupted him. Sasuke raised a brow. It was not common in Juugo to speak his mind like that.
"She's a doctor. We should take her with us."
Now he raised two brows.
"Hey that's right! She should come. The stupid villagers have been bullying her since she was a child, we should – "
"That's not my problem," he simply answered.
"She can't come, idiots," Karin glared, "She's not even a shinobi! She wouldn't be able to keep up the pace. We'd have to carry her, for crying out loud! When the fight comes, she would just be a burden to protect."
Sasuke sighed. Sometimes he wished he was all alone and didn't have to discuss everything with his team. It was so tiring. He looked out the window, even though the curtains were closed. They were kind of yellow, so all the kitchen was yellowish then. "She's already a burden."
"Stop it, Sasuke! How can you speak of her like that? We have been the burden to her all along!"
"-Remember how she was leaving and we forced her to stay! We haven't even been paying her!" Suigetsu was flaring. He decided to wait until he calmed down. "She's learning, she's proven herself to be extremely resourceful, she's intelligent, she knows medicine-"
Karin raised a brow. "My god, get a room," she sneered.
"Shut up bitch!" He pointed a furious glare to her.
Juugo ignored them and looked at Sasuke thoughtfully. "Suigetsu is right," he said, and Karin and Suigetsu quieted. "We've been a burden to her. Why did you say she's already a burden?"
Finally someone with some wits. He looked back at Juugo.
"I came across Itachi a few months ago." Now everybody was staring at him. Karin was gaping. "He knew about Sakura."
"How come you didn't tell us?" Karin said, still horrified.
Juugo spoke up. "Well, the only thing we could have done was continue looking for him and scouting."
"And you stayed here to protect her," Suigetsu said, calmer.
"Yes. Itachi isn't going to let me find him just like that. That's why I patiently waited these five months. If he doesn't want to be found, he won't be found. I couldn't leave Sakura alone in the meanwhile, he could use her to taunt me. He could hurt her."
"You're pathetic. So you want to kill your brother but you obey his instructions? Are you expecting a message saying 'ok bro come and kill me?' I didn't say anything five months ago because you're the leader of the group but I've had it with this shit. You want to kill him, then go and look for him!"
Sasuke stood up, and in a flash, he had Suigetsu by the neck, against the wall. Juugo remained seated, but Karin stepped back a little.
"I've had it with all of your shit," he hissed, glaring at him with his red eyes. "What makes you think you can talk to me like that? This is none of your fucking business." He raised his hand and got him up the wall, his feet floating 3 inches above the floor. "And you will start speaking properly to me, or I'll have to teach you."
Suigetsu's neck became water and got free of Sasuke's grip. He moved his head to the side and his feet touched the ground again. He glared at Sasuke and then sat down in one of old Sakura's chairs.
Sasuke heard someone outside and with his sharingan he saw it was Sakura.
"Sakura is outside. Not a word of this to her. We leave on Saturday morning." He said quickly, in a low voice.
"But today is Tuesday," Karin whispered. "Why don't we leave right now?"
"Because I need to say goodbye."
A/N: I'm editing this and I'm freaking out so much. I haven't checked grammar or spelling, sorry about that, I just wanted to give you this asap! I'm freaking out because it's been so long and I don't know if I have lost my touch for writing or what. You don't know how hard it was for me to pick up this story and continue.
BUT I WANT TO FINISH IT, BELIEVE MEEEEEEEEE.
I can't say when the next chapter will be up, but I'm working on it a little bit everyday.
Thanks for your support. I love you all.