Haruno Sakura ate breakfast in her sunny kitchen. She loved this apartment, and she was glad she liked it so much, since she'd gone crazy deciding where to live. She had wanted to be as close to everyone she cared about as possible. She was many things, but she thought to herself as medic for Team Kakashi first. As such, she lived about equal distances between her friend Naruto, their lazy yet lovable leader Kakashi and the dark-haired ink user Sai.
Drinking down the Miso soup in front of her, she placed the empty bowl in her sink, and quickly finished off her sweet tea. With a frown, she thought about Sasuke. She had finally been able to let him go fully just a little less than a year before. Back then, the Akatsuki Wars had just gotten started, and she'd gone with a group of her close friends to bring Sasuke back. The effort had gone for nothing. He had managed to break her heart for the final time, and she'd gone back to Konoha determined to stop being the girl who loves Sasuke. It had been a shock to everyone in her team especially when just a couple of months in to the war, Sasuke had come to Konoha for sanctuary. Tsunade-sama granted the sanctuary in return for everything Sasuke knew about the other side. His information had won the war. Konoha has been peaceful in the last month. The war being over, and their most famous missing-nin back home, had produced an air of smugness in town.
Sasuke had endured six months in prison, a great kindness on Tsunade's part, and had been kept at genin level for six months more. His probation is that he's to be kept within Fire borders at all times, and he's to have an ANBU escort on all missions, even D rank cat catching. She smiled at the memory of seeing the all-mighty Sasuke carrying the struggling cat into the Hokage tower. Today, she was supposed to meet him at the red-railed bridge that leads to the training ground to give him his weekly physical. Another condition of his release back into society was that he had to get a medical exam once a week to keep tabs on his mind and body. At first she'd not wanted to be the one to do it, but he pleaded with her, threatened to drop to his knees and beg. She'd agreed, and then had also been persuaded not to make him come to her at the hospital. All her boys, as she thought of them, hated the hospital. She loved it, but understood that waking up there injured and alone more often than seemed fair had colored their opinions.
Slipping her sandals on, she opened the door to leave when she saw it. A small box, wrapped in red paper. With a curious look around, she picked up the box and pushed a tiny spark of chakra into it to check for traps. Paranoia nothing. Had the Trojans bothered to check, they'd still be around. The red box seemed safe enough, so she shook it, and looked at it for a gift tag. Not seeing any, she checked the small porch for any sign of the as yet anonymous gifter. She didn't see anything besides the warped boards at her feet, she opened the box. The lid lifted, and inside read: From an admirer. She blushed, and dug into the tissue filling the inside of the box, drawing out a silver chain with a small jade sakura blossom charm. Lifting it to look at the delicate charm, she realized it wasn't a necklace or bracelet. With a smile, she crouched down and fastened the chain around her ankle. Her chest swelled with happiness. A secret admirer? She wanted to brag to Ino-pig, but…she thought she'd wait and see if there was any reason to. Maybe one of her boys had decided to actually thank her for all the times she'd saved their bloody skins. She stood, and made her way to the bridge, feeling the charm bounce on her ankle.
Sasuke was waiting there, like he was supposed to be. She smiled at him and he looked up at her approach. "Sakura. Morning." Inwardly she laughed. She thought that she'd know if a clone or an impersonator decided to impersonate Sasuke. It would probably use a normal amount of words to greet someone.
"Sasuke-kun." She looked at him with a critical eye. There hadn't been anything wrong with him yet, and she suspected today would be more of the same. How much damage could he accumulate helping some farmer pick rice? "How are you this morning?"
"Fine. Want to train instead?"
"Yes, but I'll get in trouble and so will you if I don't turn in my report. So just lean back, and then we can train." Sakura's hand lit with her calm green chakra. Bringing it to his chest, she let it trickle into his body. She closed her eyes, making it easier to 'see' what her chakra was lighting up. He was perfectly fine, like always. She drew out of his main body, and sent the pulse up to his eyes. They were different now, and he hadn't wanted to talk about it with her. Even Tsunade hadn't been willing to share. His eyes weren't lit, and she asked him to engage his sharing-an. He did, and she noted that the flow was even and strong. Yep. Another ten minutes wasted. "You are fine, go ahead and disengage. You still want to train? If you're open to a three-way," she smirked at his widened eyes, "Sai and I were going to train this morning. Speed training today. You up for it?"
She shook her head, "If you're not careful, you'll wreck your voice box with all that unnecessary chatter."
With an expressive eye-roll Sasuke gestured to the fields, "Which one?"
"We booked seven. We have to share it with some students doing Kunai practice, so no scaring the kiddies, Ok? That means…"
"Yeah. No snakes."
She giggled. The snakes had nearly frightened her to death the first time she had seen them burst from his sleeve, too. "Yeah, no snakes. You'll also have to be nice to Sai. He's on my team, and, he my friend."
"Did he give you that anklet?"
"Nani? Oh, no, I doubt it. Isn't it pretty?"
They walked over the bridge, and the well-worn path to field seven, "What do you mean, 'you doubt it'?"
"It was from a secret admirer." she frowned at Sasuke's frown. Why the heck did he care, anyway? He couldn't possibly…no. He'd been just like before with her. A friend, if she needed one, although she had friends who were warmer than he could ever be. "I thought it might have been Naruto, but, he's with Hinata now. Sai is a good friend, but he has all the subtlety of a flying brick. Maybe Kakashi?" They both laughed at the thought of their Sensei spending money on something other than porn. "I hope it's that Ryouma, who followed you last week. I couldn't see behind the mask, but…" she sighed and fluttered her lashes at a disgusted looking Sasuke, "the body would make up for a ugly face." She laughed again.
"Hag. Traitor." Sai dropped out of a tree with his brush in hand.
Sasuke growled, and Sakura punched Sai's shoulder, "It's nicer than the other things he calls you, Sasuke-kun. Let it go, Ok?" She turned her attention back to Sai, "And he's gonna train with us today, if that's fine with you? He's probably the fastest Shinobi I know, and training against the Sharing-an is an experience."
Sai nodded and smiled his fake smile. Sakura has seen a lot of smiles from this boy. Since Danzo's death and quitting ANBU, he'd been growing a personality. She'd seen everything from abject embarrassment, like the time she'd managed to 'port right on top of him, to a feral smile of excitement on the last mission to the Water country. "I hope you remembered your assignment, hag." Sai said in his soft way.
"Yes, Sensei." she said with a touch of sarcasm, "I cleaned my apartment in under fifteen minutes. If you want to give me a real assignment, ask me to clean Naruto's apartment in under an hour."
They all three laughed at poor Naruto's expense.
"Good, hag. Did you use the transportation jutsu?"
"Yes, as instructed, I used it to 'port between the bath and kitchen, and then I did my bedroom, and the living area."
"And the blossoms?"
Sasuke's brow wrinkled at the unusual sounding question, but Sakura's answer erased the question that rose to his lips, "Hei! Finally, thank-you for the suggestion, Sai. I would have been figuring out how you disappear in a streak of ink for a time yet if you hadn't given me the clue. I got a small flurry of sakura almost every time!"
"Way to advertise, Sakura. Couldn't you think of anything less distinctive? Any body watching could see the hana floating." Sasuke's distain was clear.
"This from the traitor who uses a fire?" Sai held his hand in front of Sasuke to stop him, "I've seen you use it. You should know that Sakura's transportation jutsu used to swirl with leaves, silver laurels, just like Kakashi-sempai. I bet you couldn't flame out the first time. She produced effect the very first time. Without even knowing that almost everyone simply 'ports in a swirl of smoke at least until they learn to make it non-existent or to add a personal flourish." Sakura couldn't believe what she saw on Sai's face. Could that be anger? She'd seen him angry before, but not on her behalf. And did he call her Sakura? Weird. Sasuke looked angry, and he was a little more dangerous, so, she put her hands on their chests to stop the budding fight.
"Listen to me, guys." Her emerald eyes stared into one face, then the other, "Sai, thank you for sticking up for me, but I'm a big girl, I can stick up for myself. Sauske. Don't poke Sai, ok? Honestly, didn't you agree to that before we even left the bridge?"
"Hnn." Sasuke rolled his eyes, "We going to train?"
"Yes." Sakura looked at a frowning Sai, "Yes, Let's do. After you."
Sai wiped the frown from his visage like it hadn't even been there. He swung toward the end of the green without academy students on it, and walked at his usual elegant gait. Not to be undone, Sasuke's walk was that of an angry cat. Careful and quick. Sakura had a feast for the eyes as she followed behind with a smile.
They talked quietly when they reached the mid-point of the green. Sai indicated that he'd send opponents after Sakura, and Sasuke could evaluate and give pointers on how to improve her speed. Then, they would gang up, and whomever came out on top got free lunch. Gathering her courage, since training with the sharing-an user would be more demanding, she took her ready stance. Sai whipped his brush into the air and with a quiet command sent several lions roaring out to meet her. Sakura ran at them, and simply tried to evade for a bit. Summoning chakra to her hands, she poised to punch one. "You're not supposed to stop! Move! Use a ninjutsu, Sakura!" Sauske's voice broke her concentration, and the beast bore down on her. With a punch, she dispelled it and it's companions.
"Damn it, Sasuke!" Sakura yelled, "Sorry, Sai, let's go again. I don't know what I was thinking." Damn that damned Uchiha to hell! She dropped into her ready stance and this time readied her hands to form the seals for a fireball. Waiting for Sai's beast imitation, she never expected Sasuke to rush at her. She felt his chakra in a split second before he struck, and she danced back quickly. Running with a glance back she leapt high, and formed the seals, "Katon Goukakyuu no Jutsu!" she shouted and blew a large ball at her former paramour.
Sai jumped to an adjacent tree, and sent a bird to what he thought to be Sakura's blind spot. Twisting in the air, Sakura preformed her shishou's technique, Tsutenkyaku (Painful Sky Leg) splattering Sasuke with ink before slamming her heel into his shoulder which she used to jump in the opposite direction. She summoned her chakra, disappearing in a shower of sakura blossoms.
"I'm down here!" she laughed at Sasuke rubbing his shoulder and Sai rolling his paintbrush between his fingers with a tiny smile decorating his lips. A cheer went up from the assembled students and some clapping teachers. Sakura bowed and blew kisses. Finally. She didn't think she'd ever land a hit on Sasuke in an actual fight. And winning a smile from Sai was like receiving praise from the heavens.
"You've gotten good." Sasuke's grudging praise didn't affect her like she thought it would. Could he not see how hard she'd been working the last three years? She was probably the highest ranked Chuunin level kunoi-chi in Konoha!
Sai jumped down, "Taijutsu training, right? Winner is treated to lunch, are those our terms?"
"Yep. Were you surprised?"
Sai shook his head. "I didn't expect a fire ball. But you using a kick to bring that fight to an end? You are the Hokage's apprentice, after all. Brushing up on your ninjutsu would be a good idea. They'll want to see some high ranked jutsu, and how quickly you can deploy them."
"The fireball was for me, wasn't it?" Sasuke glared. "Why?"
"It's hardly a family trade secret, Sasuke-kun. We live in the Leaf. Which is in Fire Country. Almost everyone can manage a fireball. I've seen you and Kakashi perform the same a thousand and one times. Why're you upset?" Sakura stood straight and looked hard in Sasuke's eyes, which were spinning in red. "I'm not scared of you, Sasuke, if that's what you're trying to accomplish. You want to know why I used a fireball? Fine. It's quick. I learned it ages ago."
Sasuke's eyes narrowed, "I have to go." He swiftly loped to a tree, and used the branches to get back to wherever it was he needed to go to.
"Why?" Sakura's eyes glistened with unshed tears. "I am not going to let him make me cry."
Sai stepped forward and lay his gloved hand on her shoulder, "Let's train tomorrow. I'll treat you to lunch anyway, hag."
Sakura swiped the tears from her face, "Arigato."
They walked side by side. Sai looked at his companion. She was so much more than him. Her emotions were plain for everyone to see, and his had barely begun to scratch the surface. In her fighting style, though, she was becoming more than the medic with super strength. Her aerial ballet was enough proof that she was becoming a graceful weapon.
"Too bad." Sakura begun, "I really wish I could wear this more often. Jewelry is so frowned on, you know?" Sai stopped in his tracks, and Sakura turned to him, "See? It's an anklet. I think it's really pretty."
"I thought you could wear it anyway."
"Nani? Sai," Sakura cocked her head to one side, "What'd you say?"
Sai's blush was so slight, she was almost ready to believe it was just the day's heat getting to him. "You should wear it if you like it, that's all."
Sakura knew him the best of all, "Spill it, Sai."
"You wear boots, so you could wear it underneath."
Sakura frowned at the ink ninja, "You said 'I' Sai. Did you? You left this for me?"
"I ruined everything." Sai sat down in the dusty trail. "I say the stupidest things. I couldn't just tell you. So, I asked Ino-san. She said that maybe I could give you a gift." Sakura nodded with a small smile, encouraged Sai resumed, "As a secret admirer. I thought you'd never keep anything I just gave to you. Did I get it wrong?" His eyes pleaded with her. In that instant, Sakura saw him for more than just her backward teammate.
"No," she said quietly, reaching out to touch her knuckles to his cheek in a soft caress, "I think you actually said it right, this time."
AN// My goodness, I really went crazy with the word count. LOL Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this. Please feel free to review. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and keep your eyes peeled for the rest of the 26 words. Adespota means: anonymous work