Title: Crimson Dreams
Summary: Sakura is being haunted by the ghost of Itachi Uchiha. Her duties at the hospital have been interrupted for a solo mission to either recruit or end Sasuke in order to protect both Naruto and Konoha. Success hinges on the aid of a dead man haunting her dreams, getting over her old crush, righting the wrongs of years past, and smashing things along the way.
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to the great Masashi Kishimoto, but I sure do enjoy all his characters and that's the reason behind this fanfiction! This contains some spoilers up to 483 in the manga.
"We have a code blue! We need a medic!"
"Incoming four-man cell all in critical condition!"
Sakura blew a wisp of pink hair away from her eyes as she concentrated on applying the last stitch in the ten inch laceration across the thigh of her patient. She'd already applied a good dose of chakra to stanch the severed vessel.
"You were lucky that kunai didn't hit hit a major artery," Sakura said for the third time. Konohamaru merely shrugged. "Just try to be more careful next time."
"As long as you're nearby I'll be fine. Konoha has the best medics."
"Just work on your defense and you'll not have to worry about bleeding out before you can reach medical attention." Sakura finished tying off the last stitch. Ever since Pain's attack and Konohamaru's bold actions during the fight the kid had been in and out of the hospital. Ever since Naruto went off the last time he'd been training harder and harder determined to be a strong as everyone's favorite Ramen loving ninja.
"Sakura!" A nurse with long, dark hair called coming up to Sakura's side as she began to put away her sharps and dispose of her tools.
"I want to have you back in seven days to take out those stitches, understood, Konohamaru?" Sakura asked.
"Yes, of course, seven days," he said pushing himself off the table and running out of her field of vision.
"Kids," the nurse said with a shake of her head.
"How may I help you, Mae?" Sakura asked turning to her.
"Hyuga is in. You know how he is. And since Lady Tsunade is unavailable..."
"He wants me," Sakura said knowingly. It was interesting how Neji Hyuga always specifically requested her. However, no one in their right mind would turn down the Hokage should she be the one to treat. Sakura followed after Mae to the partitioned area for minor wounds. "Do we have people ready for the incoming party of four?"
"Lady Shizune is taking care of it," Mae answered. She pointed to the curtained area Neji was but didn't dare go further for fear of the wrath of Hyuga. "Good luck," she said before leaving.
Sakura pushed back the curtain to see Neji resting comfortably on his hospital bed. His vest and shirt were on the chair next to his bed and his chest was a colorful patchwork of purple, red, and blue bruises.
"I had a bit of a fall," Neji said with narrowed eyes daring her to question him.
"And you hit every single branch of a three hundred meter tall tree on the way down?"
He sighed and crossed his arms over his chest cringing in the process at the discomfort before putting his arms back to his side. "Lee and I were in a sparring match and I wasn't allowed to use my Byakugun."
"Why not?" Sakura asked coming to his side with her fingers glowing green as she pressed them gently to a particularly nasty bruise on his left ribs. She frowned at what she found. "You broke four ribs, Neji."
"It was Tenten's idea. I'm jounin and I told them I was thinking of joining Anbu."
"And if you did that you'd no longer be on Team Guy," Sakura said understanding the situation.
"All I said was that I was thinking of it, after what happened with Pain and the entire village was destroyed it just got me thinking. It wasn't like I was going to leave them and join Anbu the next day or anything."
"And so Tenten challenged you to face Lee on equal ground."
Neji gave a curt nod.
"Don't they realize you already have been training with Anbu?"
The ribs were healing. The spleen was bruised and he was lucky it hadn't ruptured. The liver was also bruised so she focused on those organs after healing the ribs surrounding his heart.
"You really out did yourself, Neji," Sakura said quietly. She looked up from what she was doing to search the medical tray set up by the sink of his partitioned area. "I'll have to get some alcohol swabs. You've got one nasty cut under your sternum here," she said putting a soothing dose of chakra to the area.
"Did the curtain just move?" Neji asked.
Sakura looked over her shoulder, but the curtain seemed perfectly still to her. Her eyes flickered toward the medical tray and she noticed a few alcohol swabs lay in the center. "I must be tired. I didn't even notice these," she said reaching for one to disinfect the small laceration.
"Just don't over do it next time Neji. Between you and Konohamaru I can hardly miss treating Kakashi all the time. It's like the two of you are picking up the slack in reckless endangerment to oneself during his absence."
"Just doing my part," Neji said with a ghost of a smile. "Will you clear me physically for a mission tomorrow?"
"Yeah, you'll be fine," Sakura assured him finishing up his wound care. "At least I didn't have to practice my barbaric suturing techniques on you."
He lifted his elbow showing off a small scar. "I wear this as a badge of honor."
"Get out of here already, but if I see Lee in the next partition and he's as bad as you then I'll get you a few more bruises."
"He's fine. Hinata took care of him half-an hour ago. Would you like to get something to eat after you get off work?"
"I'm supposed to meet Sai at the noodle stand after my shift ends," she said looking down at her watch with a small laugh. "And apparently my shift ended two hours ago. You want to join us?"
"I'll pass on the Ramen. Maybe some other time. Being trained under the best medic in all of Konoha I'd think you'd realize the lack of nutritional value in Ramen."
Sakura shrugged. "It's tradition. You get all bruised and battered fighting Lee. I eat Ramen with Team 7. Both are bad for you, but one certainly hurts less!"
It had been weeks since news of Itachi's death had reached Konoha. Many of the ninja were elated that the mass murderer had finally met his just reward. Only a handful knew the truth behind the corrupt counsel of elders.
Sakura and Sai sat at Ikamura Ramen noodle stand having dinner. Naruto was off with Kakashi and Yamato training and Lady Tsunade was still in her coma and somehow Danzo had maneuvered himself into the position of Hokage.
"How was the hospital?" Sai asked carefully. Sakura would have to admit that her somewhat socially awkward teammate was trying harder and getting better at not completely alienating others.
"Busy," Sakura muttered before eating more of her noodles. Usually, the beauty about eating with Sai was that conversation wasn't required. Usually.
"Oh? Have you more duties with Lady Tsunade unconscious?"
"Fewer, actually. With Lady Tsunade no longer the active Hokage I don't have to help with some of the organizational and management parts of the government. Also, with the rest of Team 7 gone I suddenly have all this free time on my hands to devote to my patients. Though certain ones keep seeming to show up over and over again," she added thinking of Konohamaru and Neji. Sakura paused, carefully looking at Sai and his blank face. There was no false smile curving his lips and she knew he was worried about their teammates. "What's on your mind, Sai?"
"Did you really think that Sasuke could defeat Itachi?" he whispered so only her ears could hear him.
Sakura shook her head. "To know the truth behind Itachi's actions-he's a self-sacrificing hero and yet we had all ostracized him and treated him like a monster."
"He did join Akatsuki," Sai pointed out.
"To do the role of a double agent spy again." Sakura finished her noodles and sighed unhappily at the current state of affairs. "What's Danzo really like?"
Sai stuck his tongue out at her and it was emblazoned with the cursed seal that all Root members had when questions about Danzo were asked and they really wanted to answer.
"The fact that he has put a curse on you so that you couldn't talk about his dealings should be proof enough. He was the one in charge of the idea to destroy the Uchiha clan you have to wonder about his motives. Surely, a more peaceful solution could have presented itself."
Sai shrugged and then paid the bill for both their meals. "Let's go. There's still a matter I wanted to talk to you about."
They walked down the quiet streets of the village. The residents were staying locked up in their homes. After the battle with Pain everyone was justifiably paranoid and with Naruto, Kakashi, and Yamato away it was strange to see so many eyes looking upon her and Sai with expectation. She was sure that many of her friends were getting similarly looked upon, but it didn't make her feel any more comfortable.
"What was the promise Naruto made to you?" Sai asked.
Sakura blinked at him in confusion. "What are you talking about, Sai?"
He waved away her question. "We both know Naruto's ninja way is to never go back on his word. What did he promise you that he's willing to throw his life away?"
Sakura's eyes teared up at the accusatory tone in Sai's voice. How dare he? "That's between Naruto and myself."
Sai grabbed her upper arms in a bruising grasp and pulled her to face toward him. They were so close their noses were touching and his breath was coming quick and shallow in anger. "Tell me why my Team 7 seems to have a death wish. I deserve to know." A cold breeze seemed to hit them and his grip loosened slightly.
A slight infusion of chakra in her limbs enabled Sakura to pull away completely from him. Her eyes narrowed in annoyance. "We promised each other that we would save Sasuke and bring him home."
He nodded his head. "Of course, because you were in love with him when you were twelve."
"No! Because he is Naruto's best friend and my teammate. I told Sasuke that I loved him. Do you know what he said to me after I expressed my undying love for him? He said, 'Thank you,' and then he knocked me out cold so I couldn't follow!"
"Good, at least he did one thing right," Sai muttered.
"What are you talking about?"
"I remember you. Long pink hair, just as giggly as all the other girls at that age. But, I also remember you before then when you saw a lonely blond boy in the park and gave him a flower before starting the academy. I think that was the first nice thing anyone had done for Naruto"
"How do you know? Weren't you underground being brainwashed in Root?"
Sai looked away. "Sometimes, my brother and I would walk the streets' shadows and tree-line to see what normal children were like." He looked back at her. "Sasuke is not Naruto's best friend. You are. You always have been. And he's going to try and get himself killed to bring back the boy that keeps breaking both of your hearts. Who is more important? Sasuke or Naruto?"
"You mean choose?"
"That's exactly what I mean. The only good thing Sasuke ever did was leaving you behind. If he hadn't you wouldn't be the greatest medic in the Hidden Leaf. You wouldn't have your monstrous strength. You wouldn't be the best friend and rock of the future Hokage. And you wouldn't have been my friend. I had specifically requested Team 7 from Danzo. It was the only thing I've ever asked for, to be part of your team."
He held up a hand to silence her.
Sakura's brow crinkled in irritation and she ignored his gesture. "I'll speak with Lee and Kiba tonight. Tomorrow, let's find Naruto and I'll talk him out of this."
"Go to sleep, Sakura. You just worked an eighteen hour shift. I'll talk to Kiba and Lee. What time do you want to leave?"
"At sunrise," she answered. She and Sai locked gazes before they both turned without a word to go in the opposite direction. "And Sai," she called over her shoulder. She waited until he looked back at her. "You shouldn't judge a girl by her actions as a twelve year old. It's unfair."
He gave a curt nod before taking off again.
A few minutes later and she was home. "I was perfectly capable of talking to Lee and Kiba," she muttered jamming her keys into the front lock of her apartment door. She touched her doorframe and disabled her chakra infused alarm system and shut the door behind her. The keys were tossed onto the side table and she went straight for the refrigerator to drink some cranberry juice. The conversation with Sai continued to run through her mind.
Danzo had issued an order to kill Sasuke. And the last time she saw her former teammate he had tried to kill both her and Naruto. If Yamato hadn't interfered would he have succeeded? That possibility still bothered her. He'd killed both Orochimaru and Itachi so killing her wouldn't be much of a challenge in spite of the strength she'd acquired over the years.
She went to the bathroom and set the shower running. Who knew the next time she'd have the luxury? The hot water helped sooth her aching muscles. She wasn't necessary dirty as she'd already had a shower at the hospital after her last surgery before she treated Konohamaru. It had been a bloody battle but she'd won it and saved the life of the valiant shinobi on her table-unlike Konohamaru that one had severed a major artery, but he'd keep his leg and would have a full recovery.
After stepping out with the towel securely fastened around her she reached for her lavender and cherry blossom body cream. However, it wasn't on the counter in its usual position. Maybe she left it in on her dresser. She walked to her bedroom leaving slightly damp footprints on the wooden floor. It wasn't on the dresser.
"That's odd," she said to herself going back to the bathroom. She would just use another cream since she seemed to have misplaced it. It was a surprise to see the purple tube sitting in its usual place.
"I must be more tired than I thought," she said reaching for it and going about the process of application. A chill coursed down her spine and she looked over her shoulder with the odd feeling of being watched. Once more she brushed the feeling off as being fatigued from her hospital shift and the stress of what tomorrow had to bring.
She slipped on an over-sized t-shirt and then fell into bed. It didn't take long for her fall into a deep sleep.