I looked up at the brick building with the address Tenten had directed me to come to. This couldn't be it. There was a "Coming Soon" sign in the window and a neon sign reading "Kunoichi" in script overhead.
Suddenly the door swung open and Ino beckoned me inside. "You are not going to believe this," she said with an eye roll.
Walking in the first thing I noticed is the collection of booths lining the room and the raised tables with high-backed chairs surrounding them. In the center of the back wall was a giant U-shaped counter, lined with bar stools. Behind it were rows of alcohol and above a matching Kunoichi sign to the one out front. The neon green cast an eerie glow on Tenten who was standing behind the counter with a rag, wiping the surface until it shined.
Hinata swiveled around on her bar stool with a shake of her head.
"What's going on?" I asked as we made our way across the room.
Tenten looked up and smiled at me, a genuine expression of excitement. "I bought a bar!"
"I bought a bar! This is my bar!" She kept grinning, obviously feeling accomplished.
"How—when—who—why?" I didn't even know where to begin.
"I've always wanted to own my own business, and ever since I worked down at Sharingan last summer as a bartender, I've wanted to run my own bar," She shrugged.
"But Tenten, do you know how much work goes into running a bar? I mean you have to get licenses and do paper work. Pay taxes, hire employees, get inventory, pay people, and-"
"I know, how do you think I got this place? Give me more credit, for Kami's sake," She grunted. I could tell Hinata had already tried to voice reason at her all day, but Tenten still hadn't changed her mind. This was what she wanted and as her best friend it was my job to be supportive, not try and crush her dreams.
"Okay, I'm sorry," I said with a small sigh. It was a lose/lose, with Tenten you had to pick your battles. Apparently, I had already lost this one, so I was going to surrender quickly and quietly. I dropped my purse on the counter and sat down next to Hinata. "Pour me a drink."
"Sakura, please don't tell me you're going to let her do this?" Ino asked. I could tell she had been banking on me being able to convince Tenten. I had always been the one to bail her out of jail; I was always the last resort—the last hope in getting Tenten out of trouble and back down to Earth.
"She's an adult. Let her do what she wants," I said with a dismissive wave of my hand. Tenten sent me a silent thank you with another smile and poured me a screwdriver because it was still early and this was what we deemed breakfast alcohol.
"I do have one problem though," Tenten mumbled as she capped the bottle of vodka in her hand and set it down on the counter top.
Hinata dragged her hand down her face rather comically. Ino would never do anything like that; it would ruin her makeup. Instead the blonde slouched forward on a bar stool and leaned her crossed arms on the counter in general disapproval.
"What?" We all asked at once, dreading the answer.
"You see, I need a couple more employees...and I was wondering if you guys would be willing..."
"No! Do you know what my father would say if he knew I was working in a bar—your bar!" Hinata exclaimed.
"But Hina, you'd be the best help with all the business related things! I mean I already have Neji helping me, but you're so wonderful at marketing and—"
"You got Neji to help you?" Hinata started shaking her head rapidly, causing locks of lavender to fly back and forth across her face. "You better not take advantage of him Tenten, I swear I—ugh!" She stopped protesting and angrily blew hot air at her bangs before slapping them to the side anyway. "Fine, I'll help, but only because it's Neji and if he agreed than maybe this might not completely blow up in your face or something."
Tenten swung around to Ino and I, one battle won, on to the next. "So?" She raised her eyebrows up and down and smirked at us. "It'll be fun, think of the hot guys, the tips, and you know I'll pay well, obviously."
"Dammit," Ino huffed and glared at Hinata and I. "Fine, maybe I can get Kiba to help out too."
"I wasn't asking you, I was asking Sakura. Having a slut like you working here would be a health code violation. Also Kiba is already hired." Tenten said without even turning to Ino.
"I asked him to work for me. Just like Neji, Naruto, and Sasuke."
"Excuse me?" I asked because this was news, big news. "I already live with the guy. You want me to work with him too?"
"Yeah, I don't see the problem. I mean I need guys to do the heavy lifting and to take care of any trouble makers—as much as I hate the sexist view that I couldn't take care of it myself. But you know, I have to be careful with my probation," Tenten shrugged flippantly. Of course nothing like this mattered to her; she had a knack for ignoring others' awkward relationships. And I knew for a fact she didn't give two shits about her probation.
Ino glared at Tenten, "You're the third worst person in the world."
"Challenge accepted," She smirked.
"On an unrelated note, I'm going to meet Mr. and Mrs. Uchiha tomorrow night," I interrupted. "And from what I can tell so far, Sasuke is a total momma's boy and he loathes his father. So that'll be fun."
"Why are you meeting his parents? What are you getting engaged or something?" Ino asked with a tone of disgust. She hated meeting guys' parents, in fact, she hated anything that suggested a committed relationship.
"They may or may not think that Sasuke and I are in the midst of a romantic relationship, based on a lie Sasuke told them about us being in a romantic relationship," I said carefully. "Also his mother came over to the apartment when we were…uh post-coitus, which was rather uncomfortable because she immediately realized what we had just been doing and apologized for cock blocking. I mean she literally said the words cock block. I can't even with this family."
"This is why I don't have boyfriends. I hate meeting the family. Why can't everyone just have unabashed, shameless sex?" Ino asked.
"He's not my boyfriend." I growled for what felt like the hundredth time. Honestly, why couldn't people keep that straight? "I'm having unabashed and shameless sex with him."
"Right, that's why you're living with him and meeting his parents. And now you even work with him. If you spend this much time with the guy intimately and haven't developed feelings for him, well I think there's something wrong with you emotionally. I'd be happy to pay for a therapist if you need someone to open up to about your relationship issues. If this has something to do with Sai I'd also gladly hire someone to invert his penis."
"Oh I know a guy for that—real cheap too." Tenten interjected with a nod. Hinata gave me a terrified look, but before she could join in with concern I jumped up and grabbed my purse.
"No, definitely no—decidedly no. I got Sai back enough. I don't want to think about him anymore. Let's just stay out of my relationships or lack thereof for now, okay?" I downed the last half of my screwdriver, grimaced at the aftertaste, and sulked out.
"I hate this."
"I hate this."
"Sasuke, I said I hate this," Relentlessly whining would eventually make him respond.
"I heard you the first fifty times." Bingo.
"Then why do you never answer me?"
"Because either way you're going to whine, and ignoring you is less work for me," he snapped. I could tell he hated the idea of having dinner with his parents more than I did.
"Hn. You're annoying."
"No, what's actually wrong?" I snapped back at him.
"Fine, don't talk to me. I just won't have sex with you," I shrugged at turned away from him to look out the passenger side window. Nothing, but city streets and cars. I wondered if Sasuke's parents were anything like Sai's. I wonder if Sasuke's parents had any idea I had dated Sai...
"Hn." I imitated his stupid grunting form of communication.
He gritted his teeth, "You need to learn how to shut up."
Smirking, I turned back to the window, perfectly satisfied with the level of annoyance I had stirred within him.
I felt immediately uncomfortable when the hostess led us passed many tables filled with the posh looking upper class of Konoha; all of them clinking wineglasses, plucking at dishes with properly designated silverware, and dabbing at their mouths with cloth napkins.
The most interesting thing about this setting was that all at once Sasuke fell into place among everyone else and stood apart. He kissed his mother lightly on the cheek, loosely shook his father's hand, introduced us, and pulled my chair out for me. But at the same time he was following all these socialite rules that he had clearly learned growing up, he looked incredibly bored with it.
I put on my best smile and painfully channeled all the etiquette I had mastered when visiting Sai's parents. "It's so lovely to finally meet you, Sakura. I have to say I was upset with Sasuke when you moved in together because he hadn't spoke of you before. Ridiculous that he would hide someone he obviously cares for so much. I mean we're your parents." She said turning to him with a pointed look. Sasuke shifted his arm around my chair uncomfortably and only offered a curt nod.
"Where did the two of you meet?" His father asked abruptly, the first thing he had actually said to me. It was obvious where Sasuke picked up his cold behavior from.
"We go to university together.—" I started, but Fugaku interrupted.
"And what do you study?"
"Medicine, I want—"
"And what occupation are you hoping to get after you complete your studies?"
"I want to be a surgeon, with particular emphasis on the heart," I explained quickly.
"Hn," He replied. My jaw tightened, but Sasuke's mother chirped on with praise of how intelligent she thought I was. Immediately I focused on keeping up a conversation with her and ignoring the two stoic men beside us in an attempt to keep my sanity.
"Sakura, where do you work?" Fugaku interjected in the midst of my retelling of a particularly endearing story in which Ino and I wrapped a little boy in gauze so he could pretend to be a mummy.
I glanced at Sasuke, but all I received was a dead stare. "Well I volunteer at the clinic quite a bit."
"And other than that?" He pressed.
"One of my close friends just offered me a job at her business she's opening up downtown," I nudged Sasuke with my foot under the table for help.
"Interesting, what kind of business is it?" Mikoto asked with genuine and innocent interest.
"It's…" I racked my brain for a good euphemism, but ultimately came up with absolutely nothing. "A bar."
Fugaku furrowed his brow, "Who is this friend of yours?"
I stammered for a moment. What was he going to issue a background check on Tenten to find out what kind of company I keep? I couldn't think of anything worse than Sasuke's father finding Tenten's criminal record.
"Her name is Tenten," Sasuke said for me.
"Tenten Usagi?" He asked.
"Y-yes?" This was worse; he was already familiar with Tenten…
"She used to work with me at my own bar, Sharingan. Glad to see she's putting what she learned to good use," He nodded.
Are you kidding me? The one approving thing I get out of this guy and it's for Tenten. Of all people—the worse person I know. And Sasuke's father owns Sharingan, what else about this family do I not know.
I needed to call Tenten, she would be able to clue me in. "Will you excuse me for a moment? I'm going to look for a restroom."
"Here I'll show you where it is," Sasuke stood up, took my hand, and began to drag me away from the table.
"Sasuke, what are you—"
"Shut up," He pulled me down a small hallway to the restroom and opened the door.
"Sasuke, you can't come into the women's restroom!"
"Sakura, you really need to learn to shut up," He said before pushing me into the nearest stall and latching it shut.
I would have protested more, naturally, but Sasuke silenced me by putting his tongue in my mouth.