Author's Notes: Honestly, this chapter barely made it out. I've been swamped lately and I'm sorry. Can't really promise anything on updates as this summer/semester has been Hell.
Title: Love and in War
Rating: T (or PG-13)
Summary: The first time I met Prince Sasuke was the night he saved my life. I never thought I would see him again, and I certainly never expected to fall in love with him.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Chapter 9: Wicked
I gaped at the ginger haired man's unexpected introduction. It had been really pleasant, and nothing in his gaze, his smile, or his movements suggested the need to be so completely guarded and isolated. In fact, this didn't look like any other room I had seen in the entire building. The bed was the same, but this room looked to be more for actual permanent living than for the temporary stays that most mental illness patients were prone to. Normally, they were moved to a mental hospital where they could receive more specific care. This man seemed to have taken up permanent residence here.
Still, despite his smile, I couldn't help but notice that all the furniture was bolted to the floor.
"You can sit down if you want to." He said, looking excited to have company for once. I chose the armchair in the room, so that I could look at him without having to turn my body. Also, sitting next to him would make me nervous since I've got absolutely no idea what he is capable of. Tsunade hadn't even shown me his file. "Tsunade has mentioned you a couple times. She never said you'd be so pretty."
I blushed at the forwardness. "Um…thank you."
"What happened to your cheek?" He asked, genuinely curious.
I smiled, a little embarrassed. "I got into a fight with a four-year-old and lost."
He laughed, and I felt a little bit more relaxed. I couldn't even fathom a reason that this sweet, handsome guy was in here. He didn't look like he'd be much of a threat to a spider, much less to me. But then again I was here to keep him company, and, possibly more importantly, so I wouldn't take out my retreating frustration and anger on the rest of the clinic.
"So, Juugo," I began brightly. "Tell me about yourself."
He looked forlorn at that question, and I almost regretted asking it. "Well…I have PTSD…"
I waved my hand and interrupted him. "No, no, no…that's not what I meant. I mean what do you like to do, read?" I asked, looking at the book on the couch. Although Post Traumatic Stress Disorder wouldn't make a lot of sense. It was normally characterized by people who would have extreme panic attacks or go into depression after a traumatic event. Juugo was so young…what exactly had he gone through? And why was he completely cut off from the rest of the world? This wasn't healthy for a recovering patient!
Juugo looked at the book. "I was reading the Bible."
I raised my eyebrows. "That's impressive."
"I've read the Quran, the Torah, the Vedas…I think I've read them all." I blinked at his statement, not quite sure what to say to that. I knew what I believed in, but it wasn't really hospital policy to try and counsel patients on religion. "Miss Haruno, do you believe in a forgiving god?"
"Do you?" I asked him.
"I…I want to, so badly, but I don't think that I can be forgiven."
I frowned. "Juugo…don't say things like that…"
"I've done horrible things, Miss Haruno…horrible things. That's why I can't be let out of this room."
"You can't?" I asked. Was Tsunade actually holding him here?
"I can't let them release me. I have to stay in here, or I might…" He closed his eyes, his body shaking with memories and guilt. "I'm sorry, Miss Haruno." He said, his voice a lot calmer. "That is not something to be talked about in front of a lady."
"Well I'm hardly a lady." I swallowed, memories flashing through my own head. Zaku falling to the ground, the smoking gun in my shaking hands. For those few minutes until the cops arrived, I thought I was going to be stuck where Juugo is now—feeling guilty my entire life and letting it consume me. Even though Zaku hadn't died, the mere idea that he could have by my hand was more than enough to give me nightmares over it. "I believe you can be forgiven, no matter what you do Juugo." I said softly. "There…there will always be someone to forgive you, even when you can't forgive yourself. You have to look at it through their eyes. You might be a monster to some, but you're a hero to others." I thought about Neji lying on the concrete, his life depending entirely on me and Sasuke to protect him. "Forgiving yourself is the first step but…that takes time…a lot of it." I wrapped my arms around my waist as some sort of a barrier. This was getting really personal, after all. I hadn't really told anyone how I'd felt after it all. The Prince knew a lot of it, but he didn't know that I'd had nightmares for months after the incident with the word murderer floating around in my head. "I know everyone tells you to forgive yourself, but it just doesn't happen overnight, you know?"
I gave a little half smile at him and found his mouth slightly open. He returned my little smile. "Thank you, Miss Haruno."
"You can just call me Sakura."
We ended up switching topics to something more light hearted, and I stayed way past the time I was supposed to. I was glad that Tsunade had cancelled the lesson that day, because I would have been diagnosing people with a medical dictionary for sure. Juugo was really well educated, and he was four years older than me. He hadn't gone to college, I found out, but he said he always wished that he had. So he read on every topic to try to teach himself. He knew math, he knew science, he knew art and philosophy.
At four-thirty, Juugo cocked his head to one side. "Has your shift ended for today, Sakura?"
I smiled. "You want me gone that badly?"
"Not at all. But if you had plans…"
I thought about it, and really the only thing I had to do was go back to my apartment, which was undesirable for a lot of reasons right now. Ino currently thought I was a whore, and Tenten and Hinata had avoided my gaze for the brief moment that I saw them this morning. I didn't think that they hated me, but they were warier of me now.
"I wish I could just stay here." I mused to myself. At Juugo's look, I told him, "My roommates and I aren't getting along right now."
"What happened, if you don't mind my asking."
I decided that I was just going to tell him, since he might know what I should do. This man had such insight and wisdom for someone who was locked in the same room all day, every day. "I became acquaintances with someone my roommate has liked for a long, long time."
"And she never told him she liked him?"
Ha, no. I thought. "She likes him more from a distance. She's never even met him." I didn't want to flaunt the fact that I knew the Prince. Tayuya, my college roommate at OU, used to brag about the people she knew and I always hated it, even though I never really cared.
Of course I was being a hypocrite a little bit on that. It amused me to no end that Ino had no idea Naruto was the Hokage's son. She hadn't ever been rude to him, per se, but she didn't exactly treat him like a friend. That had always gotten on my nerves, that she didn't even bother to get to know the blond.
Juugo thought for a minute. "There isn't really a whole lot you can do." He said, and my stomach dropped, because that's the answer I was dreading. "I assume you're going to continue to see this person?"
Maybe…not really…I thought. He had a lot to do to spend a whole lot of time with little ol' me. And we weren't really even friends. We'd met twice, three times if you really stretched it since I'd been here, and that was really only because Fuzzy Brow—Lee—was in the hospital. I doubted I would see him while being around Naruto, since Naruto and I had known each other for months and I'd never seen him then. Once Lee left the hospital, why should I expect things to be any different? I settled on a safe, "Probably," to get the conversation moving again since I was on my way to over thinking it to death.
"Then your roommate is just going to have to get used to it. It's not fair of her to make you choose between her and her crush."
I sunk my head to my knees, which I had curled into myself an hour ago. "I just wish it was easy."
"If your friendships are too easy then you're doing it wrong."
I smiled, stretching my legs to the floor. "Thanks, Juugo. I guess I'd better go, though. I have to face the music sometime."
"You make it sound like you're going to see an executioner."
"You don't know my roommate."
I left, promising to stop by sometime next week. It was Friday, so I didn't exactly have to rush home and do homework. I dawdled a bit in the hospital, thinking about going to see Lee but leaving that for next week as well. I had seen him twice on Thursday, once to talk and then I stopped by after my shift but he had been asleep so I left him a note. He had also been asleep today when I left a daffodil on his nightstand, which I really hope didn't give him any ideas.
I got my things and trekked home, my anticipation growing the further I got. I was really nervous when I got on the elevator inside my apartment building, and I almost made the cowardly decision to hit the button to the ground floor and sleep at Naruto's again. But, then I decided that I hadn't worked three years to get my undergraduate degree at OU to be pushed out of my own apartment.
I unlocked the door, and I was actually a little relieved when I didn't see anyone on the way to my room. I left the door to my room open while I set my things down, setting my laptop on my bed so I could procrastinate a little before dinner. I really didn't want to do work right now.
I was leaned up against the headboard with my laptop in my lap, answering an e-mail, when Ino walked by my door in a tight red dress. She backtracked a little when she saw me, and sneered in my face. "Guess where I'm going?"
I thought for a moment about ignoring her, or saying something snarky just to agitate her, but I guess I just didn't have it in me to be that mean. I probably would have a few hours ago, but having a civilized talk with Juugo seemed to have helped my temper. So instead, I just looked at her and asked, "Where?"
"I'm going to a frat party." She said, flipping her hair. "The captain of the football team invited me."
I blinked at her, genuinely curious if she thought that was going to make me jealous. "Have fun." I told her, turning back to my laptop.
I didn't hear anything from her for a moment, but she finally hissed, "You're pathetic" before I heard her heels clicking into the kitchen, the front door opening and slamming behind her.
"Be safe." I whispered. Honestly, the frat parties had all sounded like bad news to me, but then again I had mostly encountered them in Oto, where I'm sure they are much worse than they are here. Ino would probably be just fine.
I lifted my head at a knock on my door, and saw Hinata standing there, looking a bit nervous. "Dinner." She said, before walking away. I sighed for a moment, wondering if things were ever going to get back to normal. I put my computer on my desk and started to charge it, and followed Hinata into the kitchen. She was quieter than usual, even by her standards. Tenten was already seated at the table, looking at me a little curiously but otherwise not acting any stranger than usual. I looked back to Hinata, who was at the stove putting noodles in a bowl.
"Do you hate me?" I asked her softly.
The white-eyed girl sighed, putting the bowl down and turning to face me. "No…but I do wish you had told us sooner." She ran a hand through her hair. "Neji almost died…and it really rocked the whole family."
"I know…and I never meant to get anyone else involved. But…if Neji and Sasuke hadn't been there…" I couldn't stop the shiver that wracked my body. "They saved my life that night." Not to mention my freedom, since I probably would have gone to prison if the Prince hadn't been there backing me up.
"I know, Sakura." Hinata said. "And I know that you saved Neji, which I'm really thankful for…it's just a bit of a shock that I've been living with you for over a year and I've never known."
"I thought you two might be related…but I…I still don't like to bring it up. Not to mention what a horrible first impression that would have been."
Hinata smiled. "True." She said. And it was like a weight had been taken off of my shoulders because with that one look, I knew that it was okay between us again. I looked at Tenten, who caught my eye and smiled at me. She'd only been caught in the middle of things, so I doubt she'd ever had anything against me. Although she had been crushing on Neji for a long time now.
We ate a quiet dinner, which was normal since Ino was absent. The talk was relatively light, only dampening when the conversation centered around Ino and her temper. None of us worried though. Ino had a tendency to do things spontaneously, and when she did something stupid it was never life changing or self-harming. She would be fine, I told myself.
I woke up the next morning a little groggy, since I had stayed up ridiculously late the night before. The worst part of it was that I hadn't really been doing anything except flipping channels. I finally went to bed at around two, simply for the fact that my eyes were crossing. I was really going to regret staying up late on Monday morning, although I was feeling it even on a Saturday, since my internal alarm clock had me wide awake at 7 AM.
I went and made coffee for myself and then drank it during a rather relaxing bath. After that, I completed the reading I had and the rest of my homework, wondering what else I was going to do for the rest of the day. From the sounds in the kitchen, it sounded like some of my roommates were awake already.
I walked into the kitchen to find Hinata and Tenten talking over their own coffee. I knew from experience that Ino wouldn't be awake until noon at least. We talked for a bit, and then decided to walk to the mall since we had nothing better to do. Unanimously, we opted to leave Ino behind since she would hate being woken up—even if it was to go to the mall—and the fact that she was still angry at me.
The first place we went in the mall was the bookstore, and we all sauntered over to the romance section to look for something interesting. I regretted not putting on more foundation that morning, since the bruise on my cheek had become far more noticeable overnight and it was earning me a few stares. I thanked my luck that my entire cheek wasn't swollen. I opened a random book and pretended to be very interested in it when I caught myself on the receiving end of a curious look from one of the employees.
"Oh, darling!" She gasped out as he kissed down the column of her throat. She reached down between their sweat-slicked bodies and grasped his—
I snapped the book closed, already feeling my face burn in embarrassment. I turned to put the book back on the shelf and jumped rather embarrassingly when I saw a man leaning against the bookshelf. Clear amusement was written across his face as he raised an eyebrow at me. "Good book?" He asked.
I could only splutter, "No…I mean, yes. Only, um…if you're into that sort of thing. Which I am not. At all."
He looked at me innocently, and I had to admit to myself that he was pretty handsome. "You don't like knights rescuing damsels in distress?"
Is that what the cool kids are calling it these days? I asked in my head, since I couldn't quite find the composure to say it out loud. Instead, I let out an intelligent, "Uh…" And then I felt my face get hotter since I knew he was teasing me. I steeled myself. "I think the damsel should at least attempt solving her own problems before relying on someone else to do it for her."
He leaned in closer, his bandanna-wrapped hair falling a little over his shoulders. I realized too late that he had cornered me against two bookshelves. The man smiled again when he saw my eyes widen. "But it's just so much more fun" his voice dropped an octave and he waggled his eyebrows, "when you have someone else to solve your problems for you."
Shit. Walked right into that one.
He laughed suddenly, backing off. "Sorry, sorry, I couldn't resist. I'm Shiranui Genma."
I pinched the bridge of my nose. "And I'm thoroughly embarrassed." I shook his hand when he offered it. "Haruno Sakura."
He blinked and then gave me a rather dry look. "Please tell me you're joking." I shook my head, and he let out a curse word that I actually didn't think was warranted. "Kakashi's going to kill me." He muttered.
"You know Kakashi?" I asked incredulously. Konoha was shaping up into a tiny, tiny city.
He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "He's sort of my boss."
My heart stuttered a little in panic. Kakashi would never let me live it down if he heard that I had been reading almost-sort-of porn. "How much do I have to pay you not to tell him anything?" I asked.
"I won't tell him if you don't mention that I was hitting on you."
I fluttered my eyelashes. "Oh you were? I hardly noticed."
He shot me the same dry look as earlier. "Or I could mention that I caught you reading porn and damn the consequences."
"It was not porn!" I hissed. "There was probably a plot in there somewhere."
"They have sex in the first chapter."
I paused. "Fine. You were never hitting on me."
"Unless you want me to."
He smiled in a way that I could only describe as wolfish. "You react in the most interesting ways when you get backed into a—"
"Friends!" I interrupted him with a squeak in my voice. "I'm here with people. Girls. I need to go find them so they don't lose me." I was slowly edging myself away, feeling entirely unnerved that his eyes were pinned to me the entire time. "Oh, hear that? They're calling me. I should really—"
"I don't hear anything." He looked amused again.
I laughed nervously. "Oh, then you should probably get your hearing checked. It was nice meeting you. I really need to go now. Goodbye." And with that I took the coward's way out and high tailed it out of there.
I found Hinata and Tenten in the Young Adult section, and they looked at me curiously since my face was still flushed and I was pretty sure they could hear my heart pounding.
"Go…we should…um...I'm ready to leave when you are!" I finished lamely.
"Are you feeling okay, Sakura? You look a bit…flustered." Hinata said.
Tenten looked at my empty hands. "Also, since when do you not buy books?"
"I'm fine!" I said a little too cheerfully. "Dandy, really. And I couldn't find anything."
"Nothing in the romance section?" Hinata asked.
"No." I squeaked. I practically pushed them back into the mall, my eyes scanning the area for any signs of Genma. Thankfully, for my sanity, he was nowhere to be found.
The next stop was for clothes. Looking through the racks gave me time to calm down a little. I ended up with a pair of jeans and a pile of discarded blouses that showed way too much cleavage for me to feel comfortable, even when I wasn't practically being hunted by handsome men who…
I shoved the blouses back onto the rack, and kept my head down while paying for my jeans. I had read the same situation dozens of times in romance novels, but I found out that reading about it was hardly preparation for the real thing.
We went home soon afterwards, after a walk around the mall revealed nothing else we were interested in having. The apartment was quiet when we arrived, and I put my jeans away in my room, noticing the lack of sound coming from Ino's room. Normally she had some sort of background music playing while she did anything. She was probably just asleep, though, since she hadn't gotten back by the time I had gone to bed last night at two AM. Either that or she had gone out again. Either way, I shouldn't be worrying about her. I wasn't her mother after all.
It was my turn to cook dinner that night, and I looked in the fridge for ideas. "Hey Tenten, can you call Ino and ask if she's going to be here for dinner?"
Tenten looked up from her place on one of the barstools. "Sure." I saw her reaching into her pocket before poking my head back in the fridge. Maybe I could do something easy, like a beef hot pot. Did we have everything for oden? Crap, no we didn't. Well, there was always the leftover fish from dinner a few nights ago…
"She's not answering." Tenten said.
"Maybe her phone is on silent." I said. Now what could I do with the fish…there was always sushi, I guess.
"You and I both know she never puts her phone on silent." That was true. It was always on except for when she was in class. "I'll go see if she's in her room."
I nodded. So for the sushi, I was going to need the fish…avocado…do we have any cucumber? Oh, there's some…I could fry the fish I guess, that would give it a nice—
I stood up in alarm, barely managing to miss banging my head in the process. I almost ran to Ino's room, since Tenten's voice had sounded so panicked. I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to find once I got there, but none of the images in my head were pretty. Sometimes working in the hospital made my imagination run a little wild, and I hoped my imagination was far worse than anything I would see. Actually, as I stepped inside the blonde's room, everything looked normal. Her bed wasn't made, but it never was, and everything looked to be in its usual state of "organized mess." I turned to her dresser and saw her casual earrings sitting on it, which made me pause a little. Ino had a set of small hoops that were her go-to earrings for casual days. In fact, she pretty much always wore them, but them being here didn't mean that something had happened. I looked to Tenten, who stood with Ino's purse in her hand. Ino never left without her purse, except for last night when she'd had a clutch holding all of her things.
"That doesn't mean anything." I said, trying to convince myself to be rational. "Let's look for anything else before we panic."
The brunette started looking around the room for more things, and I went into Ino's bathroom and opened the door to her closet. I sifted through her dresses and even looked in her hamper, not seeing the red dress she had been wearing out last night. The shoes she had been wearing were missing as well. A scan of the clothes on the floor didn't reveal the red dress either. Her shower wasn't wet from a recent use, and there weren't any lingering droplets if she had taken a shower this morning. Her towel and washcloth were both dry.
"Sakura…" Tenten said from the doorway.
"I can't find anything that says she's been here recently…" I said. "Where's Hinata?"
"Taking a shower. Do you think she's…I mean, could she have…"
"I'm sure she's fine, wherever she is. Right now we should probably call the police."
Tenten shook her hands. "It hasn't been forty-eight hours…they're not going to do anything…"
"Let's at least go tell Hinata first…then we'll decide." I said, and we went and knocked on Hinata's door until she answered the door in her robe with her hair still dripping wet. "We think Ino's missing." And then we told her what evidence we had found. After a little debate, we decided to give her one more night and call the police in the morning if she still hadn't shown. But first we called her parents, and they expressed their concern when they said they hadn't heard from her either. We called her several more times, but each time our calls went to voicemail. She had other friends, but we didn't know their phone numbers.
I didn't get much sleep that night, since I kept laying in bed jumping at the slightest of noises. Even when I did sleep, it was restless and didn't last long. I just hoped Ino wasn't out there scared, or that we had done the right thing in not calling the police. After all, I had needed a night away from everything, maybe Ino did too. Still, I know she hated me right now…but wouldn't she have at least called Hinata or Tenten? I finally got up at five, my nerves too shot to sleep anymore. I checked Ino's room again to make sure I hadn't slept through her return, only to find it the same way Tenten and I had left it. After that, I could only sit in the kitchen trying to distract myself by making breakfast.
I reached into a cabinet for a mug and poured myself coffee, but not really feeling up to drinking any of it. Instead, I set it on the counter and put my head in my hands. This was all my fault. If I'd only said something from the beginning…she wouldn't have gotten so mad and she wouldn't have left. I could have told them dozens of times what had happened, but I was always too scared of what they would think. They were my first real friends in a long time…and the thought of them shying away from me terrified me to no end. How many times had Ino and I talked about Prince Sasuke? How many? And all it would have taken would be one time, and Ino would have understood…
"Ino?!" I lifted my head to see Tenten come into the kitchen in a frenzy, looking around and stopping when her eyes settled on me. "Oh…I heard…and I thought…" She was tearing up a little, and she wasn't alone. I was almost to tears as well.
"This is ridiculous!" I told her, my voice wavering. "I'm calling the cops. Go and wake Hinata."
"No need." Hinata said, walking into the kitchen. The dark circles under her eyes revealed that she'd gotten as little sleep as us.
I used Tenten's cell phone to call since it was the closest, and Tenten wasn't about to use it since she was almost in tears.
"Konoha Police Department, what is your emergency?"
I explained to them that my roommate had been missing for two nights, and that we were worried that something had happened to her. They said they would dispatch a patrol car to our apartment. I hung up the phone and relayed the information to my other two roommates.
Hinata was hanging up the phone as well, and I noticed her eyes were glassy. "Neji is coming over."
I smiled weakly at her. "Not Kiba?" I asked, thinking of the brunette and his rather large dog. I had run into them on a few occasions over the years, and Kiba and Akamaru were still in the tracking business for the military.
She shook her head. "They're out of the country. Neji has done this before, so I thought he might…" She trailed off, obviously not trusting her voice to stay strong for anything else.
I frowned. "I thought Neji was a bodyguard? Or secret service?"
She shook her head. "He's Special Forces. They use military to protect royalty and the Hokage out of the country."
That explained a lot, actually.
Hinata opened the door for a Neji a bit later, and I thought it was sad that he could wake up, get ready, and get over here before the police. He looked tired and a little pissed that he'd had to wake up at five thirty on a Sunday, but he was obviously trying to suck it up. Hinata took him to Ino's room, filling him in on everything on the way. I was surprised Tenten didn't go with him, considering she usually used any excuse to be around Neji more, but she didn't even look like she cared.
The police came soon after, and I stood and answered their questions with a weak voice and teary eyes. She was going to a frat party. She was with the captain of the football team. No, she didn't usually pull stuff like this. No, she wasn't the type of girl to sleep around. Yes, she was mad at someone in the apartment. Yes, she always called if she was going to sleep over at a friend's house. No, she wasn't answering her phone and yes, that was unusual for her.
Neji came from the room and introduced himself to the police in a way that only emphasized his natural born authority. He hadn't found much in her room, considering the clues we used to determine she was missing—the dry washcloth and towel, particularly—wouldn't have mattered anymore since they would have been dry anyway by now, and the rest was just circumstantial, like her earrings and her purse. None of us knew which frat party she went to, so the police had very little to go on. The one thing they did know was that she wasn't in jail.
The police got our phone numbers and told us they would call if they found anything, but they would go and talk to her parents before they did any investigating. They left, and Neji scoffed at them the minute the door was closed. "Investigating my ass. All they see is a wild college kid rebelling against her roommates—"
"Stop!" Tenten stood from where she had been sitting on the couch. "Ino isn't any of those things!" She walked closer to Neji. "She's not wild or rebellious and you don't even know her…so…so just…" She looked like she was trying to hold it together, but she just couldn't, and Tenten was the first of us to burst into tears. To his credit, Neji was entirely calm throughout the whole thing. He even wrapped an arm around her when Tenten fell into his chest to cry. Hinata was the one with the soothing words, though.
Eventually, the commotion died down, and I went into my room for a moment. I cried for a minute in the silence. It's all my fault, I kept thinking. My mind was so full of what ifs and if onlys that I was getting a slight headache. Not only that, the worry was gnawing at my stomach. I hadn't eaten anything since I'd woken up, but I wasn't the least bit hungry. Who could eat at time like this?
My phone rang and I launched myself towards it, flipping it open and answering with an "Ino?!" without checking the caller ID.
"Uh…Sakura-chan?" I heard a familiar, and decidedly male, voice answer me. In disappointment, I slid down the wall next to my window.
"You could sound a little excited to hear from me, you know." He joked, and I could tell he was smiling from his tone of voice. "Anyways, you left a necklace at my apartment and I have to drive a little bit that way to get to my parent's house, so I was thinking I could drop it off while I was—"
"Can…can you do it later, Naruto?" I asked.
Suddenly, his joking manner was gone. "Sakura-chan? Is everything okay?"
I felt the prick of tears, and my voice cracked when I said, "No."
I felt bad for unloading my problems to him for the second time in a week, but I guess it could hardly be helped. I told him about Ino's disappearance, that she had been missing since Friday night, that her parents knew nothing, we knew nothing, and the cops were probably going to put this at the last of their priorities. "This is because of that huge fight we had, Naruto." I sobbed once. "This is all my fault."
Naruto said, "The hell it is!" the same time as someone at my door. I looked up and found Neji walking into the room.
The blond cut himself off from saying anything more. "Who's that?"
Neji gingerly took the phone from me. "Naruto? It's Neji…no, we'll wait and see what the police find…if they haven't by tonight, then we will…yes…" he put the phone to his shoulder, looking almost pained as he said the words, "Do you want Naruto to come over?" I shook my head and then buried it in my hands. "She says no…I'm sure she'll call if anything happens…yes…bye."
He handed me a tissue and sat down next to me. "This isn't your fault, Sakura."
"Of course it is!" I said. "You saw her room!"
"You had a fight over Sasuke?" He asked rather dryly.
"She was mad that I never told her I knew him."
"You don't know him."
"Well…I didn't…and then some things happened and he ended up coming here a few days ago and…she fainted in front of him."
Neji snorted in a way that was half amused, and half like I'd just given him the reaction he'd suspected all along. "We both know bringing up the past would open a can of worms. It's for the best."
"Sakura, as soon as she found out I knew him, she nagged me for months trying to get me to introduce him to her. She would have done the same to you."
"But now she's missing…and…"
"Her disappearance is not your fault. She went to a party by herself, where she knew there would be alcohol and frat boys." He saw that what he was saying wasn't really getting to me, so he changed tactics. "I know a few people in the police force, and I've made a few calls. It's out of our hands now. I also am acquainted with the police commissioner, so I'll call him tonight if nothing turns up."
I nodded. "Thank you. You didn't have to do all this so…thank you."
"The Hyuuga family tends to frown when one of their members is in distress for any reason. It was either this or getting my ear chewed off by my uncle."
I turned a flat look onto him. "Well I'll just have to have Tenten fix you a huge dinner to thank you for your hard work."
He froze and thought for a minute. "The sad thing is…I don't know which is scarier."
I gave a short laugh and hit his shoulder lightly. "You're awful." I said playfully.
He sighed almost dramatically, standing up. "So they say. And Sakura?" I looked up at him. "You did the right thing." I felt my lower lip wobble as he left, but there weren't any tears.
If the first night I had trouble sleeping, the second night I didn't sleep at all. I did whatever I could to fall asleep, but nothing worked. Anxiety chewed me out from the inside as I watched the green numbers on my clock advance. It wasn't soon enough that my alarm went off to tell me to get ready for class and the sun was rising. I offered to stay home, but everyone told me to go ahead. Hinata's first class was canceled anyway, and by the time Tenten had to leave, Hinata would be back. Someone would be here, they assured me, and I should just go to class and then to work like normal.
Except it wasn't like normal at all. I could barely concentrate in class, keeping my phone on silent and next to my sparse notes on the tiny desk in the auditorium. The girl next to me even asked me to please stop tapping my pencil, which I hadn't even realized I was doing out of anxiousness.
No one at work mentioned the circles under my eyes, which I had tried to cover this morning but the makeup had worn off by now. I went through the motions of work, doing everything correctly but I wasn't really all there. I felt a little guilty that I didn't smile as much as I usually did, and one nurse mentioned a patient asked if I was all right.
I walked into one of the exam rooms to find a little girl on a table and her mother standing next to her. This was two-year-old Keiko, whose mother was opting to give her an early flu shot, so I got everything ready. As I finished the shot—she didn't even cry, and I told her how brave she was—her mother exclaimed that she had forgotten the insurance card in her car and would I mind watching over her daughter while she went and got it? I agreed, and let Keiko pick out her Band-Aid (ponies) while her mother ran out of the room. After that, I gave Keiko her sucker and took her into the waiting room so she could play with the toys while we waited on her mother.
We were walking past the reception desk when a flash of red caught my eye, and I looked up and saw Ino opening the door to the clinic, looking more pissed off than I had ever seen her. She was wearing the same clothes as she had Friday night, except her pumps were in her hands and one of the heels had snapped off. She looked clean and taken care of, though, which was not what I expected after not seeing her at home for over two days.
And after those two days, I didn't expect the murderous expression on her face…and especially not how her glare was directed straight at me.
Author's Note: Ooo murderous Ino! Sasuke wasn't in this chapter, but chapter 10 will be very Sasuke-heavy, I promise. I love bringing back characters that don't get featured a lot, and yes, to those of you who ask, Konoha is a tiny city. As always, please review and let me know what you think!